NEW YORK - Indian journalists have been accused of wrongdoings in recordings released as part of an investigation into an audacious multi-billion swindle, according to a leading American newspaper. Accusations against journalists range from having inappropriate conversations with a corporate lobbyist to acting more like power brokers, The Washington Post said in a dispatch from New Delhi about the biggest ever corruption scandal to hit India. At the heart of the controversy is Andimuthu Raja, a little-known regional politician who became the powerful telecommunications minister in the worlds fastest growing mobile-phone market. During his first stint as minister, he was accused of selling lucrative mobile telephone licenses at dirt-cheap prices, costing the Indian treasury as much as $40 billion, according to a government investigative report released last week. Raja quit last week, denying allegations that he had undersold mobile-phone licenses, an industry with half a billion mobile-phone subscribers in India and an engine of the countrys economic growth. The incident was the latest in a string of corruption scandals to hit Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs Congress Party, The Post noted. While allegations of widespread graft are nothing new in India, the accusations that seemed to cause the most surprise were the revelations that some of Indias most influential journalists were taped having chummy conversations with high-powered Indian lobbyist Nira Radia about Rajas second appointment as minister. The journalists allegedly promised that they would offer opinions and advice for the government formation after the 2009 general elections, the dispatch said. Despite a high-level investigation into the allegations against Raja, he was reappointed to head the ministry, the Post pointed out. Business leaders who are alleged to have benefited from the low-priced licenses seemed to go out of their way to hire lobbyists to talk to well-known media personalities, among others, to ensure that Raja remained in the telecom ministry, Manoj Mitta, a founding member of Indias Foundation for Media Professionals, was quoted as saying. While the journalists never gave or received any bribes, the recorded conversations have raised questions about ethics in the Indian media and its coziness with corporate and political bigwigs, especially at a time of unprecedented economic growth, the dispatch said. The incident suggests Indias free press may not be free from pressure to act as a go-between for Indias government and corporate leaders, the Post said. In Indias ultra-competitive journalism world, the lobbyists are gatekeepers to getting interviews with industrialists, Mitta said. The quid pro quo seems to be that the lobbyist will give access for interviews with the big industrialists to the journalist, who is then able to do them a good turn by conveying the lobbyists needs to ruling party leaders. In the process, its the journalists that are getting compromised and the Indian public that therefore suffers. Indian journalists also increasingly serve as advisers for companies and as brand strategists on five-star hotel advisory boards, the dispatch said. They are often paid by think tanks and are alleged to be paid sometimes to write stories by interested parties, the dispatch quoted media experts as saying. The list is endless. Its a life of world capital-hopping, freebies, networking and seminars and summits, Viranda Gopinath, a columnist who wrote in the New Delhi tabloid Mail Today, one of the few mainstream newspapers to carry a double-page spread about the medias role in the mobile-phone controversy. Lets not hoodwink ourselves to believe that this morally pornographic journalism is objective, fair and exact. All of it stinks, in varying degrees of severity and phoniness. The recorded conversations suggest that two of Indias leading journalists Vir Sanghvi, the advisory editorial director of the Hindustan Times, and NDTV talk show powerhouse Barkha Dutt allegedly said they would lobby for Raja with Congress Party kingpins, according to the Post. Both journalists have released statements saying that they did nothing more than participate in political chatter and did nothing wrong. The transcripts were published in two Indian newsmagazines: Open and Outlook. Those who defend Ms. Dutt and Sanghvi argue that many journalists around the world say things to encourage people to open up about their views and elicit information, building their confidence, even if they dont fulfill their promises. Many of Indias newspapers and TV stations have kept away from the issue, saying the story had too many holes and was vague, the Post said. Some critics have accused the mainstream media of a seemingly orchestrated blackout. Filling the gap has been the social media, which is proving to be a popular and high-impact venue, even in a country with relatively low Internet usage. Facebook now has a group calledBarkhagate, referring to Barkha Dutts alleged role. Several media experts say that the good news is that the incident will inspire some soul-searching about guidelines for acceptable behaviour in the growing Indian media, whose stated goal is to be a pillar of truth in the countrys vibrant democracy. This summer, a government probe showed that regional journalists working in Indias many midsize cities and smaller towns report stories for cash - often during elections - in a practice known as 'paid news, according to the dispatch. This malpractice has become widespread and now cuts across newspapers and television channels, small and large in different languages and located in different parts of the country, read the 70-page report, titled Paid News: How corruption in the Indian media undermines democracy.