New Delhi, Feb 17: A much-hyped "biggest expose" of politicians, terrorists and intelligence agencies by website Cobrapost turned out to be a hoax and marketing prank for a Rs 199 comic book released by its editor Aniruddha Bahal.
Bahal, who launched the comic book at a room packed with journalists covering internal security, crime and home ministry beats, apologised to them saying he "pulled a fast one" on the reporters saying "all of us have a sense of humour and if we don't we need to develop one."
The comic book carries an apparently controversial reference to a senior woman television anchor and reporter as it describes adventures of Cobrapost reporter Rhea, which Bahal claimed was inspired by his daughter.
The hype around the press conference was generated after a sensational email from Cobrapost claiming to release details of "Operation R--an year long Cobrapost investigation" which claimed to have exposed 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. CCTV footage even shows some of them having discussions while playing golf," the invitation email had said.
Many senior reporters from national and international media, gathered at the venue, sharp at 11.45 AM, for the "sensational" expose to start but soon the room was filled with smoke giving anticipation of a big "revelation" to begin.
As the smoke settled down, the screen lit up with the front page of a comic book "The adventures of Rhea The Cobrapost Affair", disappointing one and all present.
Reporters expected more to come but to their disappointment Bahal apologised to them saying it was nothing else but the launch of the comic book and that he had pulled a "fast one".
The dejection among the journalists was palpable with a senior reporter telling Bahal that next time no one will turn up on his invitations. The twitter was also flooded with the spoof, with many criticising the website for its "desperate measure" to get attention, "cheap publicity stunt" and comparing it with shephard story who cried wolf.
There were some who lauded it as a "brilliant teaser campaign" by the web site.
A leading Hindi newspaper had done a front page story on the basis of the press invite sent by Cobrapost claiming that terrorists used a prominent club to meet senior bureaucrats while several reporters had listed the event as prime story of the day who immediately came out of the conference to tell their offices this was a spoof.