Kerala Police file FIR against journalists after sting goes awry

Mangalam TV CEO Ajithkumar apologizes for misrepresenting sting op

Kerala Police have filed a first information report against the head and eight members of the ‘investigation team’ of a newly launched TV channel for a botched up sting operation targeting a minister.

The FIR has been filed under sections of the Information Technology Act, sections of the Indian Penal Code dealing with conspiracy and an unspecified law against ‘misuse of electronic communication media’.

The sting operation — which was broadcast this week as part of the inaugural news bulletin of Mangalam TV — caused a lot of controversy in the state due to the channel misrepresenting the true nature of the news.

The sting operation was not broadcast as such, but was telecast as a leak of a sensitive phone conversation between the transportation minister and a woman who had allegedly come to him to get some official work done.

The minister AK Saseendran was portrayed as engaging in sex talk with the woman.

The voice of the woman on the other end of the call was edited out.

However, the nature of Saseendran’s statements in the conversation aroused suspicion that the minister was talking to a willing partner.

This led to a huge furore over whether the minister’s privacy had been violated in publication of the tape.

Many malayalam TV channels — eager to ‘expose’ a potential rival — conducted talk shows on whether it was right to publish the conversation that seemed to be a private matter between two consenting individuals.

Following this, the Kerala government set up a special police team to probe the entire matter, including the allegation made by the channel.

However, cracks soon started to appear within the channel, with at least two editorial staff resigning over the episode.

On Thursday night, channel head and prominent journalist A Ajithkumar came on TV to announce that the woman at the other end of the phone line was not a member of public as stated initially, but someone working in the special investigation team at the channel.

With this, chances are that Saseendran, who resigned within hours of the conversation being broadcast, will be brought back into the council of ministers.