The national public broadcaster Prasar Bharati said Friday on its official Twitter handle that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has asked the Indian Embassy in the US to look into a request “for immediate deportation” of Eric Bellman, the South Asia Deputy Bureau Chief of Wall Street Journal, for “anti-India behaviour”.
The tweet by PBNS News came a week after Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had intervened to revoke a 48-hour ban on two Malayalam news channels for their reporting on the Delhi riots — for allegedly “siding” with one community and being “critical towards Delhi Police and RSS”.
Later on Friday, Prasar Bharati withdrew the tweet on Bellman after MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar posted on Twitter: “A complaint was registered against @EricBellmanWSJ, @WSJIndia by a private individual on Government’s Online Grievance Redressal platform. Referring the complaint to related office is a routine matter as per standard procedure. No such decision on deportation has been taken by us.”
A complaint was registered against @EricBellmanWSJ, @WSJIndia by a private individual on Government’s Online Grievance Redressal platform. Referring the complaint to related office is a routine matter as per standard procedure. No such decision on deportation has been taken by us
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) March 13, 2020
MEA sources said the issue has been referred to the Under Secretary (Consular) in MEA, and not the Indian Embassy in the US — as incorrectly reported by the public broadcaster.
Earlier, on February 28, the public broadcaster had directed another set of tweets at Wall Street Journal, claiming that a report published in the newspaper on the death of IB staffer Ankit Sharma in the Delhi riots was wrong.
It claimed that Sharma’s brother, Ankur, had “discredited” WSJ and told Prasar Bharati that the newspaper was “lying” in its report. It also shared a screenshot of the report that quoted Ankur as saying that the mob that attacked Ankit shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
In the latest tweets directed at the newspaper, PBNS News attached screenshots of purported documents and tagged the MEA and the Indian Embassy in the US. “Ministry of External Affairs today asked the Indian Embassy in the US to look into the request for immediate deportation of @WSJ’s South Asia Deputy Bureau Chief @EricBellmanWSJ, who is based in India, for “anti-India behaviour”,” it posted.
In another tweet, it said: “A complaint in this connection had been lodged with MEA on March 2 after police complaints had been lodged against @WSJ for misreporting on Delhi riots, particularly about the killing of IB officer Ankit Sharma.”
But in just over an hour, at 8:37 pm, it tweeted: “Sources inform PBNS that the above is a private complaint registered with the grievance cell and no decision has been taken on the complaint at this time. As a matter of routine processing, the matter was referred to appropriate department for examination and nothing further needs to be read into the matter – Sources to PBNS.”
However, after the MEA intervened, the PBNS handle deleted the tweet that had claimed that the Ministry had asked the Embassy to look into the deportation.
— Prasar Bharati News Services (@PBNS_India) March 13, 2020
Around 9.45 pm, it retweeted the MEA spokesperson as stating that no decision had been taken. It added: “Clarification from @MEAIndia on earlier tweets by PBNS that had wrongly interpreted a routine procedure related to a private complaint.” It said: “The earlier tweet has accordingly been withdrawn.”
Responding to requests for comment, Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati sent links to the broadcaster’s subsequent tweets quoting the MEA spokesperson and the “clarification”.
When contacted, Bill Spindle, South Asia Bureau Chief of Wall Street Journal, referred to the official statement issued by the MEA spokesperson.
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