The Lying Indian Media Caught Red Handed!

In 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-hand man and home minister Amit Shah told his party's volunteers commonly known as Modi Bhakts: "We can keep making messages go viral, whether they are real or fake, sweet or sour". "Keep making messages go viral. We have already made a WhatsApp group with 32 lakh people in Uttar Pradesh; every morning they are sent a message at 8 am", Shah added, according to a report in Dainik Bhaskar, an Indian Hindi-language daily newspaper.

Indian Fake News Peddlers Rahul Kanwal (L) and Arnab Goswami

Amit Shah's advice has been heeded by not only BJP trolls but also many in the Indian mainstream media, including India Today and Republic TV.  

After the 2019 aerial battle between Indian Air Force and Pakistan Air Force over Kashmir, India government and media claimed shooting down a Pakistani F-16.  India Today TV anchor Rahul Kanwal invited  Abhijit Aiyar Mitra, an Indian aviation expert, to confirm that the wreckage he was showing as evidence was that of a Pakistani F-16. 

Mr. Mitra embarrassed his host on live TV by debunking the claim and correctly stating that Pakistani F-16s are equipped with Pratt and Whitney engines and what the TV host was calling a Pakistani F-16 engine was made by a different manufacturer. Watch it here:

https://youtu.be/FJ8MmTvRZ8Q


In a recent airing of 'The Debate' on Republic World TV, host Arnab Goswami invited Indian analyst General G.D. Bakshi and PTI spokesperson Abdul Samad Yaqoob — to represent Pakistan.


Goswami to Yaqoob: "You go and check today ... on the fifth floor of the Serena Hotel, I am telling you, please check, fifth floor of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, how many Pakistani army officers are there?"


Yaqoob: " "What I got to know from my sources [is that] Serena has only two floors. There are no third, fourth or fifth floors." Watch it here:

https://youtu.be/9ZQ1NttzbZE



India with its massive disinformation campaign against Pakistan, as recently revealed by EU Disinfo Lab, appears to be following what a US think tank RAND calls "Firehose of Falsehood" propaganda model. It has over 750 fake media outlets covering 119 countries. There are over 750 domain names, some in the name of dead people and others using stolen identities. Pakistani policymakers charged with countering the Indian propaganda should read the RAND report "Firehose of Falsehoods" for its 5 specific recommendations to the US government to effectively respond to the Russian disinformation campaign. In particular they should heed its key advice: "All other things being equal, messages received in greater volume and from more sources will be more persuasive.......Don't expect to counter Russia's firehose of falsehood with the squirt gun of truth. Instead, put raincoats on those at whom the firehose is aimed" 

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Indian TV played footage from a video game claiming it showed Pakistani Air Force activity in Afghanistan. The erroneous footage was the first broadcast on Hasti TV, an Afghan channel based in the UK. There have been several other examples of Indian media getting facts wrong on Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan. Notably, India Today broadcast a fake Tweet showing an image of a downed Pakistani jet. In reality, the image was taken in the US in 2018 and concerned a US Air Force jet.


https://youtu.be/SAf24lmUaJo
Riaz Haq said…
#US President Biden to #Indian PM #Modi: "The Indian press is much better behaved than the American press...And I think, with your permission, we should not answer questions because they won't ask any questions on point" Modi agreed. #QUAD #Media #Freedom https://youtu.be/scY3O3WM8Mg

Joe Biden: "The Indian press is much better behaved than the American press...And I think, with your permission, we should not answer questions because they won't ask any questions on point"

Modi said he completely agreed with Biden as they began their talks in the Oval Office.

As the two leaders sat down, Biden said: "I think what they're going to do is bring in the press. The Indian press is much better behaved than the American press"

And I think, with your permission, we should not answer questions because they won't ask any questions on point.

Modi said he completely agreed with him.

While the two leaders have met earlier when Biden was the Vice President of the country, this is for the first time that Biden is meeting Modi after he became the 46th president of the US in January.
Riaz Haq said…
#Indians are unhappy with #Modi’s treatment in #America !

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1442258693517549568?s=20

4 key complaints:

1. Biden did not receive Modi at the White House porch.

2. US media did not cover Modi's visit. (Imran Khan was on Newsweek cover while Modi was in Washington).

3. Kamala Harris lectured Modi on democracy.

4. Joe Biden lectured Modi on tolerance.

#Trump received #ImranKhan at the White House driveway. #Biden did not bother to come out to receive Modi. #Modi entered through the backdoor.

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1442277474218303488?s=20
Riaz Haq said…
What the likes of Republic TV & Zee News won’t tell you. Modi’s visit was presented as a major world event by #Indian media & huge success but there was barely any mention of #Modi's visit in #US #media except as footnote under #QuadSummit. #GodiMedia https://www.newslaundry.com/2021/09/27/pm-modis-us-visit-what-the-likes-of-republic-tv-zee-news-wont-tell-you

A major world event and a huge success — but only by the Indian media for their audience back home.

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The media reactions to the visit and its aftermath followed the usual playbook. Republic TV made it sound like Modi was the only foreign dignitary to speak at the UNGA. Zee News ran with silly stories of “Josh high in Washington,” and breathless accounts of a grand welcome home. Aaj Tak was keen to emphasise how this trip had many firsts. Times Now presented it as a pivotal geopolitical moment.

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Some things do not change. Even in 2019, PM Modi’s visit was presented as a major world event and a huge success but only by the Indian media for their audience back home, but it barely registered as a footnote in the US media. Then too, as Shoaib Danyal put it, “jingoism took precedence over factual reporting about the UN session”. There was barely a mention of the Modi visit in the US media save a brief mention in the context of the QUAD meeting, much to the surprise of Aaj Tak anchor Anjana Om Kashyap who tried flicking through a selection of US papers on air to spot coverage of the Modi visit.

Indeed very few Indian media outlets, if any at all, took the trouble to research what the 76th UNGA was about, and what the stand was of the other world leaders who also addressed the General Assembly. A cursory search on Google would have led even a rookie journalist to a wealth of information about the agenda, background papers, and issues before the UN.

Instead they focused exclusively and breathlessly on the 20-minute long address by PM Modi on September 25. The speech itself was as might have been expected. It sounded like a robust and combative defense of the Indian Government’s record in office in the last seven years; set against a backdrop of statements about India as an ancient democratic civilisation that inherently valued diversity, individual freedom, development, trade, openness and peace.

There was the obligatory reference to terrorism, of course, and how a certain neighbour sought to rely on terrorism rather than development to further its political aims.

Speaking in Hindi with instantaneous translation by the UN team into several languages, Modi’s speech at the UN was not the eagerly anticipated address that Indian media channels would have you believe. It was left to social media and Twitter handles to point out the preponderance of vacant seats in the assembly Hall

In the final analysis, it depends very much on the newspaper you read or the TV news you watch to get a feel for how important or influential the Indian PM’s visit to the US was. Perhaps, the truth is somewhere between the breathless fawning coverage of the TV channels that are beholden to the Government for its largesse and the somewhat cynical view expressed in this tweet thread.

Such visits by the head of the country’s government to gatherings of major world leaders are important and necessary, even if not essential — because not to make the effort to travel and be seen would be an own goal. But part of the magic is to manage expectations, say the right things at the right time, but to do so in an understated manner that does not make the audience cynical. But perhaps the most important thing is to be accessible to the world’s press.

This visit to the United States was the 6th by Mr Modi. And while there were many ‘firsts’ that his supporters claimed for it, regrettably it was not the first foreign trip in which the Indian Prime Minister gave a press conference.

Riaz Haq said…
Is #Indian press better behaved than the #American press, as #Biden said to #Modi at #WhiteHouse? Fact: "The Indian press is ranked 142nd in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders on press freedom" #ModiInAmerica #ModiBornToDestroyDemocracy https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/white-house-defends-bidens-remarks-indian-media-is-better-behaved-than-us-press/articleshow/86579580.cms

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday faced a number of questions on Biden's comments.

Psaki said: "I think what he (Biden) said is that they (American journalists) are not always “on point.”

Riaz Haq said…
Taliban has never been India’s enemyInterview/ Adrian Levy, author

https://www.theweek.in/theweek/cover/2021/08/19/taliban-has-never-been-india-enemy.html

Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.



On India’s role in Afghanistan, he said that Delhi had been busy nurturing its relationship with the national government, forgetting that there was an Afghanistan beyond Kabul. Excerpts from an interview:

What role do you see for Delhi in Afghanistan?

India did many things in Afghanistan. It pumped in cash and resources and created a relationship, but perhaps its biggest failing was that it was late in [reaching out to] the other side (Taliban). Kabul is not equivalent to Afghanistan; India put too [much trust] in the US mirage there. It went late to Doha. Its reach mirrored the US’s. We must remember that the Taliban is not India’s enemy. It never was.

As much as Indian intelligence agencies like R&AW want to build a narrative that Pakistan will be the biggest worry again, there is evidence to suggest that groups that have decamped as a result of constant purging by Pakistan are now operating in the lawless lands across the Durand Line. Elements of the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba are forming deadly battle-hardened groups inside southern Afghanistan and will attack anyone, including Pakistan.

What are the other worries in Afghanistan?

First, it is the chaotic space created in places in Afghanistan by insurgents who fled Waziristan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), where terror groups are deeply entrenched inside communities. They will continue to spark tension around the Durand Line and beyond. Second, there are spoilers like Iran, which has funded sections of the Taliban to hamper the US; and Russia, which had previously lost in Afghanistan, and is engaged in a contest with Washington. There is Turkey, which is deep into Pakistan, rivalling Saudi, and wants to be seen as a regional power. So, the failed state and the spoilers together pave the way for a breeding ground for evil forces and dangerous groups to thrive.

In 20 years, there have been some changes. The Pakistan army has come through 18 years of war for the better, and Rawalpindi has spent a lot of money to fortify the Durand Line with fencing and tech. What is far from clear is how and whether adventurist elements within the military and the intelligence establishment have now been enabled, too, to prosecute their old anti-India project.

In the book, you draw links between the 2019 Pulwama attack and Afghanistan.



Jaish-e-Mohammad plotted Pulwama inside Afghanistan. They had occupied compounds alongside Al Qaeda and other terrorist outfits. While the public statements and perception were completely different, that the ISI and the Pakistan military establishment were to blame, the facts suggested that the command and control structure was inside Afghanistan. If you look at the aetiology of forensics, a similar device was used in the 2008 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. Aluminium powder was used to create enormous heat. So, what you have are Al Qaeda engineers, Jaish leaders and even men trained by the now dead [Al Qaeda] commander Ilyas Kashmiri, who targeted Pulwama. What we see is how few people are needed to spill blood and create the architecture of terror. But what happens afterwards, despite the evidence, is that India lambasts Pakistan. The political project takes over.

So are you saying that R&AW is good at perception management?

India has had great success in projecting itself as benign. It is a masterful thing done through soft and hard power, where you gather a cloak around yourself to disguise all hot actions and instead portray yourself as being the patient, perpetual victim of Pakistan terror. Good play, as ISI would say. There has been Pakistan-backed terror and insurgency. But that is all we see.
Riaz Haq said…
Taliban has never been India’s enemyInterview/ Adrian Levy, author

https://www.theweek.in/theweek/cover/2021/08/19/taliban-has-never-been-india-enemy.html

Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.

In the book, you describe Kulbhushan Jadhav as an asset and not an officer. What is the difference?

In Jadhav, Pakistan spotted an opportunity. India required a new facility post 26/11; there was a need to step up and deploy assets that had access deep inside Pakistan and neighbouring countries to illuminate operations by Jaish, LeT and Al Qaeda. Given that actions by these groups had been switched down to only a simmer in Kashmir, they re-formed in Karachi and elsewhere looking for new routes to attack India. All agencies in India needed to reset around this thesis, be it the Indian Navy, the Intelligence Bureau or R&AW.



India worked hard to make connections through assets in Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and [among] Baloch nationalists, as well as seeking influence in places like Iran’s Chabahar Port, which was the natural competitor to Gwadar Port. So, there is China and Pakistan in Gwadar and R&AW and Iran in Chabahar. What we have are two ports of extreme strategic importance in Central Asia. And then there is Kulbhushan Jadhav working in Chabahar, but also able to traverse Pakistan and India. The man has at least two forms of official identity, mis-describing his religion and an actual address in Mumbai that the ISI learns is linked to a former senior police officer. The ISI sees a perfect opportunity to trap India. To build Jadhav from a roving itinerant—a roving ear—into being seen as an Indian master spy.

Are you saying Pakistan’s claim on Jadhav is real?

What cops do is detect crimes and put them through the criminal justice system, but what spymasters do is latch on to a crime and let it run as long as possible to see what the man is up to. They germinated an idea—in this case a conspiracy to attack a Pakistan air force base—and thrust upon him plans for the base, making him a party in a serious criminal conspiracy. They waited to see whom he would contact. Would he find a Baloch national? All along, in the background, they know he is a family man with kids. So, Jadhav gets jammed between spy wars of two sides.

In spy wars, enemy's enemy is your friend. How true is it for India?

Agencies like R&AW and Intelligence Bureau are using forces and assets and officers of every kind against Pakistan. This is classic intelligence work and this is what R&AW should be doing and is doing, while shielding its actions. It did that with MQM, when it was divided and its leader took asylum in London - recruiting inside MQM. The agency does this in London, Vienna, Geneva and other safe European havens and not within the theatre which is Pakistan. It does this with other outfits in Kashmir and along the Durand Line.
Riaz Haq said…
Taliban has never been India’s enemyInterview/ Adrian Levy, author

https://www.theweek.in/theweek/cover/2021/08/19/taliban-has-never-been-india-enemy.html

Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.

Did you see a rivalry between the R&AW and IB?

The IB became frustrated by not only the monopolisation of technical resources by the R&AW after 26/11 especially but also the scope of their operations. Although India is the theatre of action for IB, its officers told us that since the terror plans are brewed abroad, they too wanted operations tracking and eavesdropping outside India. That's also where a man like Jadhav comes in.

What we see - and more specifically what ISI might see - are only glimpses.

What are the ills plaguing the R&AW?

The organisation hollowed out after partition and became quite communal. The senior R&AW officers wanted and want to remove the IPS recruitment system and rigid promotions structure and start recruiting across religions, communities and languages. Some others want to involve the diaspora which speaks all languages. But, even today, hardly any Muslim officer has made it to the top in intelligence agencies.

But these are struggles the MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI have all had - becoming more like the societies they have to operate in. Relying on technical intel is not enough. RAW also desired a conditional role and a charter but these have been denied by many different governments that have resisted reform so that the intel agencies can continue to be political tools.



R&AW is suspected to be behind the Pegasus snooping scandal. Your comments.

We must look at the sequence of events. After 2001, the coming together of US and Pakistan enraged India which felt that the old abusive relationship was back on again and they tried to smash it and undermine it and colour it. They were successful in portraying Pakistan as the harbinger of terror, advancing bogus theories that, for example, 9/11 was funded by the Islamic Republic. They even projected a powerful false conspiracy involving an assassination threat to US secretary of state Colin Powell where Ilyas Kashmiri was said to have plotted to kill him in Rawalpindi using one of the CIA's missing Stinger missiles.

By 2004, under US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, the US slowly began to repoint its relationship with India having acknowledged the rise of China. A series of military and security deals, that led to the civil nuclear pact, followed. By 2009, there was an attempt at high-level technical intelligence sharing (which initially struggled to get off the ground because of leaks in India) and the coming together of various agencies, United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the United States National Security Agency (NSA) inducting India into high-level groups. India began to centralise its technical eavesdropping facility and then bought into German spyware in ousting FinFisher that could access Blackberry and Android but could only pry into jail-broken Apple phones. It was used by spy agencies around the world to listen in to journalists and political dissidents, creating a scandal in which India was also accused. What replaced it, it seems, was Pegasus, supplied to in a country-to-country deal by Israel’s NSO, likely in 2018 and the Pegasus trials started running in 2019 which have exploded into the public arena with the leak of 2021.

But R&AW and the intel services have shown great initiatives on the Techint side since the East Pakistan war and especially during Kargil when Pervez Musharraf was eavesdropped exposing his plans. The intention and skill was there, but the full capabilities would come after 2009. By when these capabilities outpaced the legislature and, remember, oversight also is practically non-existent.

Riaz Haq said…
Taliban has never been India’s enemyInterview/ Adrian Levy, author

https://www.theweek.in/theweek/cover/2021/08/19/taliban-has-never-been-india-enemy.html

Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.

Did R&AW and IB officers agree on the need for a parliamentary oversight for intelligence agencies?

These agencies do not have a charter and have been used as a political football by different governments. Narasimha Rao government was one that used intelligence this way, and others too, especially Indira Gandhi. All the officers we met agreed there was a need for an oversight mechanism and a chartering that placed the intel services inside a constitutional framework.

As Edward Snowden pointed out after 9/11, there were unlimited budgets combined with a climate of fear that grew intelligence agencies, their facilities and technical skills, which far outpaced the law, but also pushed at the boundaries of what was moral, ethical and also legal. The Pegasus exposé shows this and ultimately our political leaders - who we vote in - should be held accountable. They are not beyond the law and intelligence is not a legal. You cannot allow intelligence agencies to outpace the legislature and the majority of people I spoke to within R&AW agreed. Only the ISI does not agree. They want to continue to operate in the dark.

How was your interaction with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval? Is he a mongoose or a cobra (reference from the book)?

He is action-oriented. He is also a storyteller and likes to make and control the narrative. What we are seeing in Kashmir is complete social media penetration, use of laws like AFSPA and the PSA, where the state of law is permanently upended, to mild and project these stories.

Doval also does not believe in talks without preconditions. He began to talk to Pakistan only when he had removed Kashmir from the table, and then a back channel started to work.

Doval has helmed a communal system, too, which has concentrated power in itself but also for its political masters and their agenda. The police, NIA, IB and R&AW have all been made to fit this objective. This set-up is undermining free thought and legitimate political action. It punishes all kinds of difference and resistance.

I think the positives are that India has created an agile intelligence infrastructure, which responds quickly, and is cleverly wooing foreign countries, thought leaders, power brokers, some of whom were not on their side but are friends today. Doval has wooed the Gulf countries and Saudi. He wants to see out each to China and Iran as well as Turkey. This has created a huge problem for outfits like the D company as extradition to India is now a real threat.

Riaz Haq said…
Taliban has never been India’s enemyInterview/ Adrian Levy, author

https://www.theweek.in/theweek/cover/2021/08/19/taliban-has-never-been-india-enemy.html

Levy recently co-authored Spy Stories: Inside the Secret World of the RAW and the ISI, published by Juggernaut, with author-journalist Cathy Scott-Clark.


What are the shortcomings of this approach?

There is a lot of stage fog. It is hard to know what has happened and what has been allowed to happen for political reasons. Terror outfits are puppeteered and penetrated. Theories are put into practice - communal ones - by encouraging acts as well as detecting them. The British did this in Northern Ireland.

All intelligence organisations are becoming more chauvinistic, nationalistic but then there are others who also resist it. In India, we see an assertive Hindu agenda and those who have reason to fear it. Those who are being intimidated or jailed. The security organisations are a mirror of the societies they exist in. All our societies around the world are debating these traits and India is no exception. Popularism and authoritarianism vs liberal democracy. Personal freedom vs State controls. India has ended up more allied with an Orban-Trump-Netanyahu world than any other.

However, it will not permanently limit Indian democracy. India's cultural, regional, language divides are so profound that no Deep State will be able to control them for long.

You have named and quoted senior serving officers of the wing. Did you experience any push back after the book was published?

We cannot write a book and deliver it for approval. We do not work with any limitations other than time and money! So, what ISI and R&AW reads might surprise them and might antagonise some.

The idea was to share their views based on enormous experience so that we could see their thinking, their evolution and show some of the secret scaffolding that holds up their world. In a way, it’s like The Truman Show - that moment when he bumps his head on the roof of his world and finally understands how he has been playing a part. We wanted to define that roof and show some of those in the gallery.

We had to be responsible too - sensitive to the subject. So, even though we have transcripts for all our conversations, 90 per cent of what we learnt has not yet been published because it was either too sensitive or inappropriate or could cause hatred.

On the other hand, we were always open about our own beliefs with them. We went into every room as if we were being recorded.I have a thumb rule which I apply always: when you say something out loud then you should be prepared to hear it back.
Riaz Haq said…
From India Today: Pakistan captain Babar Azam and his opening partner Mohammad Rizwan made light work of the 152-run chase, getting to the target in the 18th over to break the World Cup jinx and register their first-ever 10-wicket win in a T20I match.

This was Pakistan's first-ever win against India in a World Cup match of any format. It was also their maiden T20I win by 10 wickets over any opposition and the highest opening stand against India in the format. It was also India's first 10-wicket defeat in the format.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/heres-how-indian-political-leaders-reacted-to-pakistan-s-win-in-t20-world-cup-match-1868889-2021-10-25

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Rare honesty seen today on India's ZeeNews after Pakistan's "One-sided win" against India in T20 World Cup. Analysis by India's ex cricketers Mohammad Kaif & Harpal Bedi

https://fb.watch/8RNaT-R4lD/
Riaz Haq said…
In India, Facebook Grapples With an Amplified Version of Its Problems
Internal documents show a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence in the country, the company’s biggest market.

The documents include reports on how bots and fake accounts tied to the country’s ruling party and opposition figures were wreaking havoc on national elections. They also detail how a plan championed by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to focus on “meaningful social interactions,” or exchanges between friends and family, was leading to more misinformation in India, particularly during the pandemic.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2021/10/23/technology/facebook-india-misinformation.amp.html
Riaz Haq said…
Maria Ressa interview: You can’t negotiate peace if you don’t agree on the factsInterview/ Maria Ressa, CEO, RapplerRiyad Mathew By Riyad Mathew

https://www.theweek.in/theweek/cover/2021/10/22/maria-ressa-interview-you-cant-negotiate-peace-if-you-dont-agree-on-the-facts.html

You said the media lost its gatekeeping powers to technology. How do you take back control and regain the trust of people?


The hard part for journalists is that that’s not within our control anymore. In this new world, you say a lie a million times, it’s a fact. In the old world, you say a lie ten times, journalists can catch up, facts can catch up. But when it’s a million times, exponentially pounded, we don’t stand a chance. If you don’t have facts, you can’t have truths. Without truth, you can’t have trust. The incentive schemes of the internet and social media don’t encourage facts and journalism. They encourage information operations. This is why it’s not a surprise that your government, my government, Russian disinformation, Iranian disinformation, Saudi Arabia… there have been many countries. Oxford University’s computational propaganda research project said, at the beginning of the year, that there are at least 81 countries where cheap armies on social media are rolling back democracy. Meaning, they are insidiously manipulating their people. In which democracy is that okay?


These tech platforms tell us, “Well if you don’t like it, mute it or block it.” Can you imagine a journalist saying that? If you don’t like a fact, ignore it, but the rest of the world can still see it. This is why our public sphere is so broken. The idea behind a tech platform is that we can all have our own realities. It's like we’re living in the matrix, or in our own illusions. This is what is tearing down democracy. You go to the Nobel Peace Prize; you can’t negotiate peace if you don’t agree on the facts, if you don’t agree on your shared reality. I’ll shut up, I think I’ve had too much Coke Zero.

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You mentioned how some journalists could have succumbed under pressure. For you, getting arrested made you a stronger person and more committed to the cause. In India, five years ago, there were 10.3 lakh journalists; today it has come down to 2.3 lakh. Around 70 per cent either lost their jobs or left the industry. What do you say to that section of disillusioned journalists?


This is a disruption of our industry. So here’s the biggest problem. To paraphrase the Nobel committee, they said freedom of expression is necessary for a democracy, [and that] the quality of journalists of a democracy is indicative of the quality of its democracy. (Sighs) the problem is, the business model of news has crumbled. And that goes hand in hand with the rise of the technology platforms, which are the very same places that are tearing down the credibility of news. It’s a virtuous horrendous cycle. Part of the reason journalists have been laid off globally is that news organisations have lost their revenue stream, the advertising revenue stream. And where did they flock to? They flocked to the technology platforms that have enabled the attacks against journalists. And yet, as the Nobel committee pointed out, you need journalists to get the facts, especially in conflict areas, especially when authoritarian governments growing into dictatorships, growing into fascism, need to be curbed. I go crazy when people call journalists content creators, because we’re not! It would be very easy to just create content. It isn’t easy to be a good journalist. To stake your life at times if you’re in a war zone, [to stake] your reputation when you’re challenging power. It isn’t easy to go up to somebody who has all the power in your world and demand answers. That takes courage. And that is the commodity that no one can really pay for. That is what the mission of journalism creates. So I worry… sorry, I’m hyper, I’ll tone it down (laughs).
Riaz Haq said…
Prominent female #Indian journalists critical of #Modi government targeted by online scammers. Lured with fake job offers from #Harvard University in #Cambridge #Massachusetts. #BJP #Hindu #Hindutva #India https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/16/technology/harvard-job-scam-india.html?smid=tw-share

Nearly a year later, it is still uncertain why Ms. Razdan and the other women were targeted. Although the scammers expressed support online for the Hindu nationalist movement in India, they shed little light on their decision to trick reporters.

The perpetrators have successfully covered their tracks — at least, most of them. The New York Times reviewed private messages, emails and metadata the scammers sent to the women as well as archives of the scammers’ tweets and photos that the scammers claimed were of themselves. The Times also relied on analysis from researchers at Stanford University and the University of Toronto who study online abuse, and from a cybersecurity expert who examined Ms. Razdan’s computer.

The identities of the scammers remain a secret.

“It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, an institute at the University of Toronto that investigates cyberattacks on journalists. “It’s a huge amount of effort and no payoff that we’ve identified.”

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One at a time, the scammers selected their prey.

The first known target: Rohini Singh, an outspoken female journalist who had broken some big stories that powerful men in India didn’t like.

Ms. Singh delivered a blockbuster article in 2017 about the business fortunes of the son of India’s current minister of home affairs. She is a freelance contributor to an online publication called The Wire that is among the most critical of the Hindu nationalist government in India. She has also amassed nearly 796,000 Twitter followers.


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The next target was another female journalist, Zainab Sikander. An up-and-coming political commentator, Ms. Sikander campaigns against discrimination toward Muslims, a growing problem under the Hindu nationalist government. She has also written and posted many critical observations of the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Aug. 22, 2019, Ms. Sikander, too, received a Twitter message from Tauseef Ahmad, inviting her to participate in a high-powered media conference at Harvard. It was the same message sent to Ms. Singh, though neither woman knew the other had been targeted.

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Just like in Ms. Singh’s case, Tauseef connected her to Alex Hirschman. What she didn’t know was that Alex and Tauseef were likely fake personas — a search of Harvard’s student directory showed no students by either name.

Ms. Sikander also didn’t know that Tauseef’s Twitter account was one of several online personas that were interlinked. Tauseef and Alex seemed so friendly, sending her compliments — and confirmations for the flights and hotels they claimed to have booked.

--------------
The next target was another female journalist working at a prominent Indian publication, who spoke with The Times on the condition that she was not identified. Suspicious about the scammer’s U.A.E. phone number, she quickly broke off contact too. But the scammers didn’t give up. By the time they communicated in November 2019 with Nighat Abbass, a spokeswoman for India’s ruling political party, known by its acronym, the B.J.P., they had copied email signatures from real Harvard employees and swiped official letterhead from the university’s website.
Riaz Haq said…
An investigation sheds light into #India’s PM #Modi’s machinery of online #hate and manipulation. #BJP uses #TekFog app to make hate-filled messages and anti-#Pakistan #fakenews go viral. #Hindutva #Islamophobia ⁦
@RanaAyyub
⁩ - The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/18/the-wire-sheds-light-on-india-tek-fog-hate-online/


------------

Tek Fog: An App With BJP Footprints for Cyber Troops to Automate Hate, Manipulate Trends

https://thewire.in/tekfog/en/1.html


The Wire investigates claims behind the use of ‘Tek Fog’, a highly sophisticated app used by online operatives to hijack major social media and encrypted messaging platforms and amplify right-wing propaganda to a domestic audience.


Over a series of tweets in April 2020, an anonymous Twitter account @Aarthisharma08 claiming to be a disgruntled employee of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Information Technology Cell (IT Cell) alleged the existence of a highly sophisticated and secret app called 'Tek Fog'. They claimed this app is used by political operatives affiliated with the ruling party to artificially inflate the popularity of the party, harass its critics and manipulate public perceptions at scale across major social media platforms.

The Twitter handle's mention of Tek Fog – a 'secret app' that they said was able to 'bypass reCaptcha codes' allowing fellow employees to 'auto-upload texts and hashtag Trends' – caught the attention of the authors of this piece, who reached out to the individual behind the account in order to investigate the existence of this hitherto unknown app.

Over subsequent conversations, the source claimed their daily job involved hijacking Twitter's 'trending' section with targeted hashtags, creating and managing multiple WhatsApp groups affiliated to the BJP and directing the online harassment of journalists critical of the BJP, all via the Tek Fog app.

The source went on to allege that they had decided to come forward after their supposed handler – Devang Dave, ex national social media and IT head, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (the youth-wing of the BJP) and current election manager for the party in Maharashtra – failed to deliver on a lucrative job offer promised in 2018 if the BJP was able to retain power in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Over the next two years, a process of correspondence followed where the team at The Wire set out to test what could and could not be verified in the allegations made by the whistleblower, in addition to investigating the broader implications of the existence of such an app on the public discourse and the sanctity of the country's democratic processes.

Each of the allegations made by the whistleblower were subjected to a process of independent verification through which the team sought to learn more about the different functionalities of the app, the identity of the app creators, its users and the organisations enabling its use. Via encrypted emails and online chat rooms, the individual behind the Twitter account sent several screencasts and screenshots demonstrating the app's features. The source also shared payslip and bank statements to establish their identity (on this condition that this not be made public) and that of their employers.

The source did not provide The Wire direct access to the Tek Fog app. They claimed that this was due to the presence of various security restrictions – including the requirement of three one-time passwords (OTPs) to login to the app dashboard and the use of a local firewall that prevents access outside of the facility. They were, however, able to connect us via email to a BJYM official who provided code scripts that helped the team identify the various external tools and services connecting to the secure server hosting the Tek Fog app. The same script also led The Wire's team to one of the servers hosting the app, allowing us to independently verify that the app was functional at the time of publication and was not just a prototype.
Riaz Haq said…
In addition to the primary evidence provided by the source, the team at The Wire also employed a wealth of open-source investigative techniques to conduct an extensive forensic analysis of the various social media assets provided by the source, and to corroborate the network infrastructure underpinning the use of the app. The team also interviewed other independent experts and current employees at the organisations implicated in the broader operation in a bid to glean more insight into the network.

Through this process, The Wire was able to build upon these first shreds of evidence and uncover a vast operation pointing towards the existence of a group of public and private actors working together to subvert public discourse in the world's largest democracy by driving inauthentic trends and hijacking conversations across almost all major social media platforms.

The screencasts and screenshots of Tek Fog provided by the source highlighted the various features of the app and helped the team gain further insight into the operational structure of the network of cyber troops using it on a daily basis to manipulate public discourse, harass and intimidate independent voices, and perpetuate a partisan information environment in India.

One of the primary functions of the app is to hijack the 'trending' section of Twitter and 'trend' on Facebook. This process uses the app's in-built automation features to 'auto-retweet' or 'auto-share' the tweets and posts of individuals or groups and spam existing hashtags by accounts controlled by the app operatives.

This feature is also used to amplify right-wing propaganda, exposing this content to a more diverse audience on the platform, making extremist narratives and political campaigns appear more popular than they actually are.

One of the hashtags – #CongressAgainstLabourers – was shared 3by the source at 8:25 pm IST on May 4, 2020, as part of a screenshot revealing their 'daily task' list for that day. According to the same screen, the source was tasked with making the hashtag appear in at least 55,000 tweets and reach the 'trending' section of the platform.

An analysis of the on-platform activity of the hashtag via Meltwater Explore, a social media analysis tool, revealed that the hashtag had first appeared two hours prior on Twitter, eventually peaking at around 9 pm, half an hour after the source had shared the screen. The trend went on to accumulate 57,000 mentions, surpassing their assigned goal by 2,000 tweets. Moreover, the screen also showed how the source had posted the hashtag using 1,700 accounts in the first two hours after 'activating' the task, a fact that was corroborated by this independent analysis with exactly 1,700 accounts posting the hashtag at around 6:30 pm IST.
Riaz Haq said…
Sharechat's Response

Your story seems to insinuate certain relationships between the creators of the alleged ‘Tek Fog’ application and Mohalla Tech Private Limited. These are completely incorrect and false, and no such relationships exist between us. We would like to reiterate in absolutely no uncertain terms that we are not aware of, nor have we assisted (financially or otherwise) at any point in time and in any manner, the group of persons related to this ‘Tek Fog’ application. Further, we have no relationship (currently or in the past) with Persistent Systems of any manner whatsoever.

In the interest of transparency, we would request that you share further details of the claims made by you in your article for our teams to investigate.

As a platform, we invest significantly in countering hate speech, misinformation and other forms of harmful content on our platform. This is an ongoing issue that social media platforms across the world are working to solve, and it is well known that such operators spread similar content across platforms as a part of their activities.

To address this specifically, we take the following measures:

We partner with multiple third party fact checkers including BoomLive, Factly, NewsChecker and others to help identify and tag misinformation on the platform in 12 Indic languages including Marathi and Hindi, that covers more than 98% of the content posted on the platform.
We have developed and incorporated technology based tools that help us flag and takedown such content on a regular basis.
Our users also actively participate in the process of content moderation by reporting content on the platform that may violate our rules.
We have large teams both internally and externally that aid us on content moderation and responding to these user reports.
In the month of November 2021 alone, we removed 7,037,688 pieces of content from our platform that were against our community standards. We also aggressively take actions against accounts and in many instances permanently ban user accounts that attempt to spam or otherwise misuse the platform in violation of our terms of service and community guidelines. In the month of November 2021 alone, we took action against 319,701 accounts on the platform.

We would urge you to refer to our monthly transparency reports available at https://help.sharechat.com/transparency-report for greater details.

We reiterate that our company has no connections with this application, persons or companies mentioned by you and such claims are unfounded.

Riaz Haq said…
#Indian "journalist" Barkha Dutt tells colleague Madhu Trehan how she self-censored while reporting from #Kargil in 1999. She self-censors "anything she saw that Indian #Army did" in #Indian Occupied #Kashmir "in the interest of national security". #media https://youtu.be/w4woLeBD3r4
Riaz Haq said…
Praveen Swami’s legacy of “sources” journalism

https://caravanmagazine.in/media/praveen-swami-india-pakistan-balakot-firstpost-journalism


By Praveen Donthi

In 2013, I reported for The Caravan on India’s compromised national security beat. I noted in the piece that reporting on the “natsec” beat in India has always been a murky business, centred on a transactional relationship between the reporters and their sources in the security establishments. The glamorous nature of natsec reporting also ensures that they keep their sources completely anonymous, and are rarely questioned by editors. These reporters rely heavily on leaks, and the price for access is publishing information without much regard for its provenance. The beneficiaries of these dynamics are India’s security establishment and its government, which, on matters of national security, prefer to function without public scrutiny and accountability.

Swami, whose work I analysed in the 2013 report, fits neatly into this pattern. “If there is one infallible indicator of what the top Indian intelligence agencies are thinking or cooking up, it is this: Praveen Swami’s articles,” a 2010 report by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, a human-rights group, said.

Swami’s reports are based mostly on unnamed sources in intelligence agencies, and make big claims with recurring narrative patterns. I wrote in 2013 that his pieces often flaunted details that would have been difficult for any journalist to discover first-hand, all presented in neat, confident narratives. His work has since continued along similar lines. On 26 February, as the foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale announced that India had conducted an airstrike in Balakot, Firstpost had carried one of the first reports on the strikes. The article claimed that, “according to defence sources, IAF fighter jets not only targeted the JeM camp, but also Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen camps near Muzaffarabad.” These sources further claimed that there were six more targets “including Chakothi, Balakot and Muzaffarabad” and that five terror camps were also “targeted at Kangar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” The article was attributed to “FP staff.”

A week after the government claimed Indian forces had carried out surgical strikes on terror-training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on 29 September 2016, Swami wrote a story for The Indian Express, where he was Strategic and International Affairs editor at the time. The story claimed to include “information which the governments of India and Pakistan have not made public.” The article, however, only confirmed India’s claims of the strikes. Swami claimed in the report that he sent questions to five people, “using a commercially available encrypted chat system,” who visited the villages that were apparently attacked during the strikes and spoke to the residents. Swami described them as “eyewitnesses.”

One of the stories Firstpost published after the recent fracas was by Francesca Marino, an Italian journalist. Marino’s story claimed that 35 people were killed in the strikes and mentioned that “the eyewitnesses were contacted by this correspondent using encrypted communication.”

Swami’s 2016 Indian Express story included this bit about a vengeful sentiment among the ranks of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, following the surgical strikes:

Friday prayers at a Lashkar-affiliated mosque in Chalhana, another eyewitness said, ended with a cleric vowing to avenge the deaths of the men killed the previous day. “The Lashkar men gathered there were blaming the Pak Army for failing to defend the border”, he said in one message, “and saying they would soon give India an answer it would never forget”.

He authored a Firstpost story on 1 March this year, which spoke of a similar sentiment among the leadership of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose training camp is believed to be target of India’s recent Balakot strike:


Riaz Haq said…
How top Meta executive Shivnath Thukral has links with a firm that works for Modi and BJP


https://www.newslaundry.com/2022/05/02/how-top-meta-executive-shivnath-thukral-has-links-with-a-firm-that-works-for-modi-and-bjp

Shivnath Thukral, former public policy director of FB India who holds the same designation for WhatsApp in India now, has a close link/association with a company that creates bots to promote Narendra Modi and his party's reach on the social media.

Shivnath Thukral, a public policy director, India, at WhatsApp Inc (owned by Facebook, now known as Meta) since March 2020, had once owned a stake in Opalina Technologies – a company that has provided software solutions for India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, the prime minister’s office, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the ministry of textiles in the union government.

Thukral, who remains one of Meta’s top lobbyists in India, gave up his stakes in Opalina before joining Facebook on October 24, 2017. But Opalina, where Thukral’s father still holds shares, continues to work for the BJP and Modi.

According to the registrar of companies in the government of India’s ministry of corporate affairs, Thukral – who is also former managing editor of NDTV Profit – was a director of Opalina Technologies between March 2015 and October 2017 and owned a 7.5 per cent stake in the company since October 2014.

Just nine days before he joined Facebook India, Thukral resigned as Opalina’s director. Around the same time, he transferred his shares in the company to his father Kul Bhushan Thukral. So, stakes in Opalina remained with the family, even though Shivnath Thukral himself had joined Facebook.

Thukral was public policy director (India and South Asia) at Facebook from October 2017 to March 2020, after which he left the post to become public policy director (India) at WhatsApp. Simultaneously, between October 2020 and September 2021, he was also interim public policy director (India, South and Central Asia) for Facebook after Ankhi Das’s controversial resignation.

Opalina was incorporated in April 2013. The majority shareholders of the company are Satish Chandra and Gaurav Sharma, a former Times Group employee, who are also directors in the company.

Thukral is known for his proximity with PM Modi. He had worked as a part of Modi’s election campaign in 2013 before Modi became India’s prime minister in May 2014. According to unnamed “former Facebook employees” quoted by Time magazine, “a key reason Thukral was hired in 2017 was because he was seen as close to the ruling party”.

Facebook India acknowledged his past association, stating to Time, “we are aware that some of our employees have supported various campaigns in the past both in India and elsewhere in the world”.

Madhu Kishwar, a vociferous supporter of the prime minister, too wrote in her book, Modi, Muslims and Media, that she was introduced to Modi by Thukral at a rally in Bharuch, Gujarat, in 2013.

Opalina’s projects for Modi and the BJP

Online evidence suggests Opalina developed software solutions for Modi’s social media presence and the BJP’s digital campaigns during Modi’s re-election in 2019.

These reporters found a Twitter bot – an autonomous programme on the internet that can interact with network systems or users – that tweeted from Modi’s Twitter account and a Facebook “profile photo frame”, both of which were used as a part of the BJP’s “main bhi chowkidar” campaign on social media a month before the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Both the Twitter bot and the Facebook photo frame were developed by Opalina.

a) Twitter bot for #MainBhiChowkidar

In the run-up to the 2019 election, Rahul Gandhi and the opposition Congress party devised a slogan to target the prime minister – “chowkidar chor hai”, or the watchman is a thief.
Riaz Haq said…
RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index : a new era of polarisation


https://rsf.org/en/rsfs-2022-world-press-freedom-index-new-era-polarisation


The invasion of Ukraine (106th) by Russia (155th) at the end of February reflects this process, as the physical conflict was preceded by a propaganda war. China (175th), one of the world’s most repressive autocratic regimes, uses its legislative arsenal to confine its population and cut it off from the rest of the world, especially the population of Hong Kong (148th), which has plummeted in the Index. Confrontation between “blocs” is growing, as seen between nationalist Narendra Modi’s India (150th) and Pakistan (157th). The lack of press freedom in the Middle East continues to impact the conflict between Israel (86th), Palestine (170th) and the Arab states.

Media polarisation is feeding and reinforcing internal social divisions in democratic societies such as the United States (42nd), despite president Joe Biden’s election. The increase in social and political tension is being fuelled by social media and new opinion media, especially in France (26th). The suppression of independent media is contributing to a sharp polarisation in “illiberal democracies” such as Poland (66th), where the authorities have consolidated their control over public broadcasting and their strategy of “re-Polonising” the privately-owned media.
Riaz Haq said…
#Google picks former #Modi think-tank official as #India policy head. Last year, #Meta Platforms Inc (#Facebook) hired Rajiv Aggarwal - who spent years working in India's federal and state governments. #BJP #Hindutva #SocialMedia https://www.reuters.com/world/india/google-picks-former-modi-think-tank-official-india-policy-head-source-2022-05-04/


NEW DELHI, May 4 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google has hired a new public policy head in India, Archana Gulati, who previously worked at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's federal think-tank and the country's antitrust watchdog, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

A number of Indian government officials have been hired by Big Tech companies which are battling tighter data and privacy regulation, as well as competition law scrutiny, under Modi's federal government.


Gulati is a long-term Indian government employee, having worked until March 2021 as a joint secretary for digital communications at Modi's federal think tank, Niti Aayog, a body that is critical to government's policy making across sectors.

Before that, between 2014 and 2016, she worked as a senior official at India's antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India, according to her LinkedIn profile.



A Google India spokesperson confirmed the development to Reuters, but did not elaborate. Gulati did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The source declined to be named as the hiring decision was not public.

India's antitrust watchdog is currently looking into Google's business conduct in the market of smart TVs, its Android operating system as well as its in-app payments system.

Last year, Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O) hired Rajiv Aggarwal - who spent years working in India's federal and state governments - as its head of policy.


Another former Indian antitrust and federal government official, Anand Jha, in 2019 joined Walmart (WMT.N) as India public policy officer. He currently manages government relations for Blackstone in India.

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