Two years back, sting operation carried out by a news web portal Narada News where the ruling political party of West Bengal in Eastern Part of India, TMC’s 11 prominent leaders and ministers ‘caught on camera’ accepting bribes sparks controversy about the ethical problems of any sting operation.
But it’s true that deception and lie play major roles in any undercover 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 camera.That is our job and our responsibility’.
Here, I want to quote veteran journalist Vir Sangvi in this regard :
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 defense, 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……..