Two reporters of the 24×7 Kannada news channel TV9 have landed in jail after being arrested by Bangalore police following a “sting” operation in which they were reportedly trying to entrap a powerful and controversial Congress minister by offering him a bribe with secret cameras, went awry.
Deccan Herald reports that the police are also on the lookout for the channel’s Bangalore head, Mahendra Mishra.
The reporters—Shreyas, 28, and Shwetha, 24, both carrying identity cards of News9, the Bangalore-centric English TV channel operated by TV9—approached energy minister D.K. Shiva Kumar in a manner reminiscent of Operation Westend, which felled BJP president Bangaru Laxman over a decade ago.
The reporters claimed to be representing a fictitious London-based solar power based company called EnerGo.
After they had established initial contact, the reporters were invited by the minister to his residence on Sunday. At that meeting, the minister expressed his helplessness citing the model code of conduct but directed them to meet his officers.
According to Deccan Herald, at the third meeting on Monday, the duo allegedly offered the minister Rs five lakh in cash and asked him to accept the money. The minister grew suspicious and called up the police who rushed to his house. They found hidden cameras on frisking the two journalists and arrested them.
Addressing a press conference, the minister—a close aide of former chief minister S.M. Krishna—said that the duo had earlier met him with request to approve a file.
“I contacted the officials of the department, and learnt that no such file is pending with the department. I grew suspicious about the motive of these people. The two reporters, who came to meet me at 9 am, again came to my house at 3.30 pm. As I had suspicion about their activities, I had requested policemen to be present in disguise. When they tried to offer money, I asked the policemen to take them into custody.”
Following the arrest of its journalists, TV9 has conducted a relentless campaign through its channels, with the simple proposition: “Is it wrong to conduct sting operations?”, also the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has clearly stipulated guidelines for its members.
In 2011, the then power minister of Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje of the BJP, had a duo arrested for nearly identical reasons, but they weren’t reporters.
For the record, D.K. Shiva Kumar’s inclusion in the Congress ministry has been a hot-button issue and activists have questioned his inclusion despite the cloud of corruption charges hanging over his head.
Also, for the record, TV9—whose tagline reads “For a better society”—has been relentless in its coverage of the corruption of Shiva Kumar, including his alleged links with the underworld. The minister has previously been known to have a keen interest in launching his own TV channel to temper the torrent of criticism.