An FIR has been registered against the news portal The Wire on allegations raised by BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya for cheating, forgery, and publishing “fake stories”, against Meta, Instagram and Mr. Malviya himself.
Meanwhile, The Wire, has filed a complaint against one of its former consultants, Devesh Kumar, who allegedly supplied the fabricated details for the story. No FIR has been registered yet. Mr. Malviya, however, had not mentioned Mr. Kumar in the complaint he filed on Saturday. In it, he alleged the involvement of the The Wire’s Founding Editors—Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, MK Venu, Deputy Editor and Executive News Producer Jahnavi Sen, the company that owns and publishes The Wire—Foundation for Independent Journalism, and other unknown persons for cheating, forging documents and publishing the “fake Meta stories”.
“It is clear that The Wire and some unknown persons entered into a criminal conspiracy with intent to malign and tarnish my reputation, deliberately inserted my name into a story, and fabricated evidence to implicate me. I am left with no option other than to seek legal remedies,” Mr. Malviya tweeted.
In a response to Mr. Malviya’s allegations, Mr. Varadarajan told The Hindu, “When the news first came out, the claims were made on the details provided by one of the consultants of The Wire, Devesh Kumar.” He said that The Wire had issued an apology regarding the same and acknowledged the internal editorial process. He added that The Wire has retracted all the stories related to Meta.
A complaint was lodged against Mr. Kumar, who supplied The Wire with fabricated material on Meta and Instagram, with the intent to harm The Wire and its employees and damage its reputation he added.
“We registered a complaint under IPC sections cheating, forgery and IT Act,” he said. A senior police officer, however, said that no FIR has been registered yet. While Mr. Malviya did not name Mr. Kumar in the complaint, he did mention ‘unknown persons’.
In the police complaint submitted to Special Commissioner of Police (Crime), Mr. Malviya alleged, “I say that The Wire, with the help of such fabricated and false stories, tries to attract viewership on its website wherein readers are requested to donate money in the name of “true and independent journalism”. However, the donations received are utilised towards manufacturing false and misleading stories.”
The Wire had published a series of reports in October claiming that certain privileges were given to the head of BJP IT Department by Meta through its ‘XCheck list’ or ‘Cross Check’ programme. With those privileges, Mr. Malviya could take down any content on Meta that he thought was critical of the government or the BJP. He even had the privilege to post anything without Instagram guidelines being applicable to him.
While The Wire had said that they had cited the reports based on sources from Meta, the latter has denied those claims.
Mr. Malviya said that the portal fabricated the internal emails of Meta to “prove their point” and “cause reputational damage to the BJP and the complainant”. The portal has retracted the story and issued an apology for the same.
Mr. Malviya further said that The Wire had previously published a fake story on Tek Fog about a superhuman app used by the BJP for social media interception. “The story was taken down as it was false and fabricated,” he said.
The Wire, on Saturday issued a statement, which read, “Journalists rely on sources for stories and do their best to verify material they receive. Technological evidence is more complicated and the usual due diligence may not always reveal the fraud perpetrated upon a publication. This is what happened to us. In the life of any publication, an occasion may come when it is misinformed. The moral test is whether the publication persists or speaks the truth. We chose the latter when we realised, we had been given fraudulent information. Whether the person who brought all the material to The Wire deceived us at anyone’ else’s behest or acted on his own is a matter that will be subjected to judicial process in due course. The malintent to discredit The Wire is obvious. Other than this, we have nothing to say.”