Deception plays a major role in any under cover operation
As an Investigative Reporter,I admire the works of Henry Demarest Lloyd,Nellie Bly,Jacob A Riis,Benjamin Flower,Frank Norris,Ida Tarbell,Charles Edward Russel,Dravid Graham,Graham Phillips,Lorana Sullivan.Henry published a series of articles exposing corruption in business and politics in the Atlantic and North American Review.Nellie a Young reporter worked with The Pittsburgh Dispatch and later Joseph Pulitzer’s The New york world.Bly specialized in undercover reporting,her first hand tales of the lives of ordinary people was her speciality.Lorana Sullivan was a worthy successor to the pioneer American Investigative Journalist Ida Tarbell.As a reporter of the London Observer,uncovering the business background and financial dealings of Mahamed-al-Fayed after he acquired Harrods.In India,Indian Express was the pioneer of Investigative Journalism.in recent times, ‘Tehelka’ carried out important sting operations which exposes corruption in high places.Though,deception is a part of the investigative reporting,purists have some reservations about these methods.’We don’t have the authority of a crossing guard.No one elected us to do anything.yet each day we try to make decisions regarding hidden cameras…That is our job and our responsibility’.Here, I want to quote veteran journalist Vir Sangvi:
There is the classic ethical problem that haunts all sting operations: can you hold somebody responsible for a crime that he would not have committed if you had’t encouraged him? The essence of all entrapment is that you promise a man a reward for breaking the law and then, apprehend him when he takes the bait.
Journalists were undecided about the ethics of such operations, I suggested. We all accept that some level of entrapment is a part of all law enforcement. For instance, the police always send a dummy customer to a brothel and then arrest the prostitutes only when money has changed hands. The prostitutes could claim, in their defence, that no crime had taken place or even, that it would’t ever have taken place but for the blandishments of the police. On the other hand, the police could retort that the brothel was open for business anyway and only by dispatching a dummy customer could they establish that sexual favours could be purchased.
But while different police forces have different standards for entrapment operations – in India, they are relatively rare, while in the US, the FBI likes to use them – most journalists have always reckoned that it is not the business of journalism to encourage people to take bribes or to break the law, even if all this is sought to be justified as a part of a lofty moral objective. The line that Indian editors have always taken is: once you allow your journalists to encourage people to break the law, you leave your paper open to all kinds of undesirable consequences.
Journalists also have a second objection to sting operations. Most of us are simply not cut out for them. By far the most astonishing thing about Operation West End, at least from my perspective, was the ease with which Tehelka’s journalists wore wigs, pasted on false moustaches and affected strange accents. To be able to do all this requires skills that most of us simply do not possess.
But despite this criticism, the Investigative reporters will continue their job.