The recent incident of mob lynching in Assam where two men were brutally killed on the suspicion of being child lifters clearly explains why tackling rumours based on fake news is the biggest challenge of this digital age. Fake news has become one of the biggest talking points with media organisations often debating and discussing ways to take on the menace.
But on Monday, Republic TV, in its primetime show The Debate With Arnab Goswami, talked how #FakeNewsCanKill in the aftermath of the Assam lynching. The panelists included leaders from political parties and journalists. But what surprised and shocked everyone was the presence of Dr Aishwarya, Editor of Postcard News, the right-wing online portal that has often been accused of spreading fake news. Its founder Sandeep Ravi, who is also a BJP Yuva Morcha member, was arrested in April under Sections 120B, 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code for spreading communally sensitive news.
— Republic (@republic) June 11, 2018
While Dr Aishwarya talked about how fake news lead to politicisation and can trigger lynchings, there is a list of incidents where Postcard News itself indulged in doing the same. Many of its stories were blatanly communal in nature and openly maligned all other parties except for BJP. The most interesting part is that most of these stories have been removed from its platform.
1. In May this year, Postcard News published a photoshopped letter of Karnataka minister M B Patil’s to Congress president Sonia Gandhi which ‘revealed’ that Global Christian Council and World Islamic Organisation masterminded the division of Lingayats in Karnataka. However, it was later found that Global Christian Council and World Islamic Organisation were just fictional names. Even the minister denied writing any such letter, reports Alt News.
2. In August last year, Republic TV carried a story on electricity being suspended at Jama Masjid due to the non-payment of bills. The reporter covering the story ‘Inside Jama Masjid is a complete blackout’ commented how Imam Bukhari had money to buy luxurious cars but not pay electricity bills. The story was widely shared by Postcard News and other similar Hindutva outlets, who wanted to draw comparisons with Dera Sacha Sauda’s Ram Rahim. However, Bombay Suburban Electric Supply (BSES), Delhi’s electricity board clarified that it was an old case which was duly resolved long back.
3. In an article titled ‘Watch! Is Birbhum a part of Pakistan or Bangladesh’ that was published in April 2017, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was addressed as a ‘Jihadi who provides safe haven for Islamic fanatics’. The article talked about how two Muslim IPS officers assaulted Hanuman devotees during Hanuman Jayanti. A video about the incident was also shared on their platform. However, it was later found that the story was fake and the video was of some other incident that took place in 2014.
4. In March, Postcard News published a BBC story which listed out the names of the most corrupt political parties in the world. As per the said survey, Congress ranked four in the list. But BBC’s Geeta Pandey rubbished the survey and called it fake.
5. Post Card News also wrote an article maligning Aam Aadmi Party in which it revealed scandalous information about how Kejriwal and his party are paying huge money for social media campaigning on Twitter. In a series of tweets, a person who claimed to be an AAP member said that party was paying Rs 50 for ever tweet and 7 for every retweet. SMS Hoaxslayer later found that the allegations were untrue and the account @aap_lal Twitter was created to spread rumours.