Delhi Police has registered an FIR against news portal The Wire, its founder and editors in connection with its report, subsequently retracted, that BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya used his special privileges at social media giant Meta to take down over 700 posts.
On Friday, Malviya had submitted a complaint to the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) against The Wire for alleged cheating, forgery and criminal intimidation.
Police have registered an FIR against its founder Siddharth Vardajaran, along with editors Siddharth Bhatia, M K Venu and Jahnavi Sen.
The journalists have been booked under IPC Sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery with the purpose of cheating), 469 (forgery for harming reputation), 471 (using forged document), 500 (defamation), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention).
Malviya had on Friday said The Wire’s apology (in connection with the reports) did not mention his name despite “tarnishing” his image.
“It is clear that The Wire and some unknown persons entered into a criminal conspiracy with the intent to malign and tarnish my reputation, deliberately inserted my name into a story, and fabricated evidence to implicate me… Consequently, I am left with no option other than to seek appropriate legal remedies against The Wire and its management/reporters,” Malviya said in a statement on Friday.
In his complaint, Malviya stated: “I am filing the present complaint for the offences of cheating, forgery for the purpose of cheating, forgery for the purpose of harming reputation, using as genuine a forged document or electronic record and defamation amongst other provisions of IPC.”
“It is pertinent to mention here that the Instagram account of @cringearchivist, the account whose post I have allegedly reported, is a private account which the Complainant (Malviya) does not follow… Further, it is pertinent to note that none of the Accused cross-checked whether I followed the said private account on Instagram so as to access the post in the first place. This clearly indicates that the accused persons have with common intention conspired to maliciously defame the Complainant and the BJP by spreading false news to the public at large,” the complaint stated.
It stated: “Shockingly, until date the accused persons have refrained from issuing an apology addressed to me. This is even despite the fact that their reports and fabricated material have maligned and tarnished my reputation. Further on 28.10.2022 The Wire on its twitter handle admitted that they had been running a false and fabricated story.”
“The above forged reports of the accused person have caused serious harm to my professional career and reputation…[the] false, fabricated and malicious reports have also tarnished the image of BJP in the eyes of the public at large. The BJP, currently having a majority in Parliament and many states, has suffered a huge reputational loss,” he stated.
A statement released by The Wire on Friday 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… 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.”
When contacted on Saturday, Venu said: “The statement of The Wire issued yesterday is very clear that fraudulent information was brought to us by a member of the Wire team. So The Wire has duly filed a police complaint against the person for wilfully and knowingly committing a fraud and an act of deception with us.”
“This is not the first time that the accused has published fake news. Recently, the accused published a story on ‘Tek Fog’ about a ‘superhuman app’ used by BJP for SM (social media) interception. The said story was used by various national and international media to downgrade India and the thriving democracy of our country. However, subsequently, the Tek Fog story was taken down by The Wire as it was found to be false and fabricated, just as in the present case.”
In October, The Wire claimed Meta had given certain special privileges to Malviya through its XCheck programme, where he could take down any content on Meta that he thought was critical of the government or the BJP while having the privilege to post anything without Instagram rules applying to him. The Wire claimed that its reports were based on a document “sourced” from an alleged Meta insider.
This was denied by Meta, which called the document fake.
Following this, The Wire published a series of articles defending the report, citing what it called “internal emails” of Meta, which have all turned out to be fake.
Since then, The Wire has retracted the story, distanced itself from one of the reporters, Devesh Kumar — the second reporter was Jahnavi Sen — and issued an apology to its readers admitting poor verification of “complex technical evidence” and “taken moral responsibility for the omission”.