Zee Media has issued a legal notice to Cobrapost and three other news websites that carried the stories on Operation 136 exposing the news channels’ role in promoting Hindutva ideology in exchange of money.
The legal notice by Zee said, “a planned conspiracy and a set of self-serving, false, fabricated and baseless piece of writing which in itself is based on tampered, doctored and edited recordings.” The notice, according to Times of India, has been served to Cobrapost operator, its founder-editor Aniruddha Bahal and reporter Pushp Sharma.
Warning civil and criminal defamation, Zee Media asked Cobrapost to immediately remove all sting videos from its websites and tender an unconditional apology in writing and stop any further re-circulation, republishing or reproduction of the defamatory content.
“The impugned press release and purported sting operation contains deliberate and fraudulent misinterpretations and presents a heavily concocted and fabricated version of the actual facts,” the notice said.
It also alleged that the videos were “deliberately and fraudulently edited, tampered and fabricated the recorded videos, but has also used false and incorrect information to project a hyped and concocted story, which is far from the truth.”
In the Cobrapost sting operation, the website’s undercover reporter, Pushp Sharma, had reportedly met eight marketing officials who work for various regional channels of the Zee group to see if his offer to have Hindutva promoted on Zee News platforms was received warmly by them or not.
The website claimed that all of them agreed to do more than what Sharma asked for. Santosh, for instance, who is part of the sales and marketing team of Zee Kalinga, which was launched in 2014, in Bhubaneswar, promptly agreed to suture a corporate alliance with Zee News for his agenda: “Nahi, nahi khali Zee Kalinga ka baat khatm kar lete hain aur top level mein jo bhi ho sakta hai main yahin se karva doonga … koi problem nahi hai sab mein karwa doonga (No, let us finish with Zee Kalinga first … and whatever can be done at the top level for you, I will get it done from here [Bhubaneswar] itself … there is no problem … I will get everything done).
“You mean you can take care of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh even from Bhubaneswar? Promptly, replies Santosh: “Haan, haan link hain sab na koi problem nahi hai direct baat aap bhi kar sakte hain koi problem nahi hai khali Zee Kalinga ko lekar jo programme hai aapka uska detail mereko de deejiye aur Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh bol rahe hain Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh ke liye main karwa doonga (Yes, yes. I have links with all. There is no problem. You can also talk directly with them. There is no problem. You can send me details of your program for Zee Kalinga … and you are talking of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, I can get things done for those states also).”
The notice by Zee Media then sought to remind Cobrapost and other three websites how as as neutral media house they ought to have questioned the legitimacy of these videos. It said, “as a neutral media house, you were expected to ponder upon the legitimacy of such alleged sting operations as claimed to be genuine by said Mr. Pushp Sharma, who had a tainted track record.”