An expose that wasn’t

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It was a packed house in Press Club of India here where scribes waited for the media conference to start as they speculated on the content of an expose on intelligence agencies that was promised to be explosive.

But as the conference started, investigative portal Cobrapost on Tuesday pulled a “fast one” on media as it launched a graphic novel — “The adventures of Rhea The Cobrapost Affair” — written by its editor Aniruddha Bahal and illustrated by Neelabh.

All started with an email invite from the portal on Monday for the “Biggest Story of All time by Cobrapost — Operation R” on politicians, terrorists and intelligence agencies.

“A year-long Cobrapost investigation exposes the network of an international terrorist group in India. Linked to the ISI and the Taliban, the group made a concerted effort to kidnap foreign diplomats and nationals in India amidst other nefarious activities. The group used the Delhi Golf Course as a hub for clandestine meetings,” the invite read.

Even a prominent investigative journalist tweeted his excitement on the possible “big story” involving US Special Forces station in a Delhi farmhouse while a Hindi newspaper even carried a news item, believing that the email invite is on a real sting operation.

With the juicy invite, journalists covering internal security, crime and home ministry beats thronged the Press Club only to be remain stunned as the portal team released the graphic novel.

As usual for portal’s media conferences, Bahal started briefing about the “operation” but soon smoke filled the stage. Expecting something sensational, journalists were shocked to see the enlarged cover of the book with Bahal apologising to them saying he “pulled a fast one” on them. “All of us have a sense of humour and if we don’t we need to develop one.”

It was silence in the conference hall for sometime but a journalist then spoke up — “next time, no one will turn up on his invitations”.

The scene before the start of the conference saw some TV journalists screaming at their operators of Outdoor Broadcast for not being fast enough to go live. Some channels even stationed two OB vans to ensure seamless broadcasting of the event.

One of the channels even started broadcasting the event live without knowing that it was not a sting operation but the launch of a comic book.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 18, 2015)

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