Sunny Leone, Sonu Sood respond to Cobrapost's claims about accepting money to promote political parties
Sunny Leone took to Twitter to refute Cobrapost's claims with a detailed statement, stressing that she isn't 'campaigning for any political party.
More than 30 Bollywood celebrities, including Sunny Leone, Sonu Sood, Jackie Shroff, Kailash Kher and Vivek Oberoi, have allegedly been caught in a sting operation for agreeing to promote the agenda of parties on social media platforms in exchange for money, online portal Cobrapost claimed on Tuesday.
Operation Karaoke by Cobrapost had its reporters posing as representatives from a public relations company and meeting actors, singers, dancers and TV stars through their managers to allegedly strike a deal ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Sunny Leone took to Twitter to refute the claims with a detailed statement, stressing that she isn't "campaigning for any political party.
Clarity !!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/tQ192e4J0W
— Sunny Leone (@SunnyLeone) February 19, 2019
Sood too released a statement, calling the sting operation a "clear case of sabotage," which wrongly reproduced and projected what had been actually discussed.
"The editing has been tampered with and only certain elements of the conversation have been used and projected in the wrong light. To add to that the background score only sensationalises it further. It is very regular for brands, political parties, individuals and corporates to use celebrity social media platforms for promotions. It's the content being posted that needs to be responsible and something that the celebrity believes in. Even such collaborations and endorsements have to be followed in an ethical and responsible manner. In the video too, I had clearly stated that I won’t demean any party or promote anything which is not right or not true."
"I would always be open to promote or highlight good work, which everyone would agree isn't wrong whatsoever. With reference to the contract, I had also clearly stated that I want everything to officially be put on paper as that is the regular protocol. Promoting brands, political parties, individuals or corporations isn't wrong as long as you believe in the product, the ideologies and the intention," the statement read.
Apart from Shroff, Kher and Oberoi, those who agreed to tweet for money included names such as Shreyas Talpade, Shakti Kapoor, Ameesha Patel, Tisca Chopra, Rakhi Sawant, TV star Pankaj Dheer and son Nikitin Dheer, Puneet Issar, Rajpal Yadav, Minissha Lamba, Hiten Tejwani and wife Gauri Pradhan, Mahima Chaudhary, Rohit Roy, Aman Verma, Koena Mitra and Rahul Bhat among others.
Singers Daler Mehndi, Mika, Abhijeet Bhattacharya and Baba Sehgal, choreographer Ganesh Acharya and comedians Rajpal Yadav, Raju Srivastava, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar (VIP) were also part of the list.
Addressing a press conference here, Cobrapost editor-in-chief Aniruddha Bahl said the sting revolves around 36 celebrities agreeing to post messages on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to help create a favourable environment for certain political parties in the run up to the elections.
The celebs, most of them second rung TV and film stars, agreed to tweet content on various issues to be provided to them before posting the same on their social media pages to make it look as their own, he alleged.
"They would defend the government even on controversial issues such as rape and fatal accidents such as bridge collapses. They were even willing to sign a dummy contract for endorsement of products to disguise the real nature of the proxy political campaigning that they were willing to do," Bahl said.
According to Cobrapost, the party in question was, in most cases, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the Congress in some instances.
Some celebrities turned down Cobrapost's offer to promote a political party on social media.
"When we approached Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and Saumya Tandon with our proposition, these celebs chose to go by their conscience and straightaway refused to play ball," it said.
(With inputs from Press Trust of India)
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