The Editors Guild of India* has issued a statement expressing concern over the ‘Cobrapost’ sting “Operation 136”, that showed media owners, managers and editors willing to push a Hindutva agenda for a price.
The anodyne statement is remarkable for not revealing, or even giving a whiff of the stench that Cobrapost’s sting operation unearthed—which is the readiness of large sections of the media to play a partisan political role behind the backs of professional Editors.
Indian Newspaper Society (INS), the body of media owners, is still to speak up on the issue although it is proprietors and promoters who are implicated most by the Cobrapost sting.
“The Editors Guild of India has expressed concern over the claims made by website ‘Cobrapost’ through a ‘sting operation’ conducted on several prominent media organisations.
“While the Guild cannot ascertain the veracity of these tapes, it urges the media organisations, whose representatives were purportedly caught engaged in inappropriate conversations, to explain their conduct to their readers and the public at large.
“They must squarely address the charge that some media organisations seem inclined to sell editorial content for revenue.
“The Guild believes that the media is under attack from different quarters in an environment that requires journalists to be extraordinarily vigilant and conscious of the need to adhere to the highest standards of free and fair journalism.
“The managements and proprietors should recognise the complex challenges they and their journalists face and respond to them in a way that no one can cast aspersions on their credibility and fairness.
“Editorial freedoms must be fully respected. Paid news, even a suggestion of it, is ruinous for the media’s image.
“There can be no compromise on maintaining the wall between editorial and advertising. All sponsored and advertorial content must be clearly identified and demarcated.
“The Guild, would also like to draw attention to the Code of Practice for Journalists adopted by it in 2002 and subsequently revised in 2007.
“Clause 19 of the Code of Practice says: “Information should not be obtained through the use of clandestine listening and photographing devices or by intercepting private telephone conversation. Or through misrepresentation or subterfuge (popularly described as sting operations) except when justified only in public interest, and when information cannot be obtained by any other means.”
“The Guild stands by these guidelines outlined in the Code of Practice for Journalists. If at all stings are to be carried out, these must be justified as per these norms, following fundamental journalistic principles of full disclosure and fairness.”