Why is there an online backlash against Boby Chemmanur and mainstream media
news Monday, June 15, 2015 - 05:30

Former chief minister VS Achutanandan’s recent allegations against a leading jeweler have set the social media abuzz, talking about both, the alleged financial fraud committed by the company, and also the mainstream media’s lack of reportage on the subject.  

This episode appears to follow the same trajectory as the strike by some women employees of Kalyan Sarees, which generated a lot of interest and indignation in the online social sphere, but was hardly covered by the traditional media.  

Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan had alleged in a recent press conference that Boby Chemmanur, owner of Chemmanur International Jewelry and Chemmanur Credits and Investments Ltd, was involved in financial fraud of around Rs 2,000 crore.  

Widely known as a philanthropist, Boby Chemmanur had invited international football legend Diego Maradona to be his brand ambassador in 2012. Now, his jewelry showrooms have in fact been renamed as Boby & Maradona. Recently, Maradona inaugurated the 37th showroom of the company in Malaysia.  

Achuthanandan had demanded that a probe be launched against Chemmanur Group, which had, according to him, allegedly swindled people of crores of rupees, violating gold trading norms.   Although a person from Thrissur district had complained against the financial fraud last June, the police had not taken any action so far, Achutanandan claimed.  

These allegations have now taken a more serious turn with a man named Ismail committing suicide inside a Chemmanur outlet in the Thiroor area of Thrissur on Sunday. Ismail’s self-immolation was allegedly due to pressure to pay the installments for gold purchased from the showroom.  

With this incident too going largely unreported, except by one or two news websites, agitated social media users have accused the mainstream media of deliberately blacking out the entire issue as Chemmanur group is a large advertiser.   Chemmanur Group was the also the main sponsor of the Journalist Football League (JFL) conducted by the press club in Kozhikode district in May 2015.  

"It is not a new phenomenon, media will never say a word against their advertisers as they have to survive. Chemmanur group is a major advertiser and that according to me is the only reason for not giving news against them. Lack of evidence is just an excuse," says BRP Bhaskar, veteran journalist and human rights activist.         Part of the indignation that social media users have has even been extended to Wikipedia: Boby Chemmanur’s Wikipedia page has now been changed to "Fraud Bobby". It also mentions that the mainstream media did not report on it due to advertising pressure.   

The page lists information regarding a 1997 case which was filed against him in Kozhikode district.   The page says: “The petitioner Jyotheendran took a debt of  Rs 50,000 from Chemmanur group, he paid back Rs 3.5 lakh including the  interest.  Jyotheendran filed a case against Boby’s business group and police did find some details about it from Boby’s house. None of the mainstream media reported it as they take advertisements from the business group.”  

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