Two young journalists caught attempting to carry out a sting operation against a senior minister in the Karnataka government, at the instance of the local head of the channel Mahendra Mishra, were part of an elaborate pre-election strategy by the local edition of the TV9 channel to catch senior politicians in the act of receiving money for election purposes.
The minister concerned D K Shivakumar, a controversial politician whose entry into the state Congress cabinet was delayed for months on account of pending corruption cases against him, claims he was aware in advance of the sting operation against him and played along before informing the Home minister and police authorities to lay a trap for the journalists.
The sting gone wrong brought into focus dubious strategies used by the media outlet over the years to target people into submitting before them and has resulted in two young journalists being imprisoned for the last couple of days while the channel head has himself gone underground.
A counter complaint has been filed against the supporters of the Energy minister D K Shivakumar by the channel for allegedly assaulting the two journalists — a 28-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man — after they were caught by the minister and policemen in plainclothes while handing over cash of Rs 5 lakh disguised as a gift for the minister.
Cameras hidden in glasses worn by a 28-year-old woman journalist, who is a newcomer according to TV9 insiders, cameras tucked into coats worn by them and in the phones held by the journalists, and the cash of Rs 5 lakh that was handed as a bribe have been seized by the police in the course of the filing of bribery cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The plan behind the sting operation that had been in action for over 10 days was to send two well attired journalists claiming to be representatives of a British energy company called EnergoPower that was looking to set up a 12 MW solar power generation facility in the state, that was seeking clearance for the project from the energy minister. An elaborate front including a website had reportedly been created to trap the minister.
According to a press statement issued by TV9 following the arrest of its journalists the sting operation was planned “after receiving several complaints from people and businessmen in general’’. According to TV9 the energy minister demanded a bribed but later after sensing the sting operation “denied having demanded any such bribe’’.
According to the Minister D K Shivakumar he was aware of a sting being planned against him and had placed the two journalists under surveillance after he grew suspicious of their insistence on a clearance for the project despite no official files existing in the energy department for EnergoPower.
“We have our own intelligence systems and we had information that this channel was planning a sting. These two persons approached me wearing suits and said they had a solar energy project proposal to be cleared. I told them nothing could be continued…