Police questions digital ‘news portal’ owner Rafik Sheikh in Dhule lynching case: Indian Express

As reported by The Indian Express, the Dhule Police has recorded the statement of an owner of a local digital news platform ‘Media Live’, Rafik Sheikh, whose news story on child lifters went viral in the area. The police are probing if social media posts that went viral in Dhule instigated the mob that killed five members of a nomadic tribe on 1st July at Rainpada village in Dhule around 350 kilometres from Mumbai.

Rafik Sheikh, who runs Media Live, published a news story that claimed child lifter groups were seen lurking around in Rainpada, which is a part of the Sakri taluka in Dhule. The 2.08-minute long Marathi news capsule – using graphics, still images and file footage claimed that an attempt was made to abduct an infant aged one-and-a-half years by a group of men dressed in burkas in the Chand Tara area of Sakri on 29th June morning.

According to the story woven, the entire episode was foiled after a woman spotted the men, chased them away and saved the infant. The clip also mentioned the names of two Sakri policemen asking them to take note of the incident and asks viewers to remain vigilant against such child lifters in the area. In the end, the video shows the number of the Sakri police station and urges people to call if they spot anything suspicious.

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While talking to The Indian Express, Rafik, said “I was called in for questioning. We have clarified that while the news capsule was aired at 1 pm on June 29, as soon as we learned that there was no such case reported at Sakri it was pulled out within ten minutes. However, by then the clip had gone viral and resurfaced after the July 1 lynching.”

The cyber crime team of Dhule police probing the case are yet to confirm whether the lynching case was related to viral social media posts including the one posted by Sheikh.

On 1st July, five members of the Dongrinanthpanthi Gosawi community were killed by a mob in Rainpada hamlet of Dhule in Maharashtra. The mob suspected they were child lifters after rumours had spread across the region. 25 arrest were subsequently made by the police, amongst which seven were from Rainpada, where the incident took place, the rest are from neighbouring areas located at a distance of 2 to 20 km.

We came across their Facebook profile, which was created on 19th November 2017, with merely 763 followers.

On delving further, we also found a post on ‘Media Live’ Facebook page where it was seen campaigning for an NCP leader Prof. Sandip Trambyakrao Bedse.

The poster reads:

Will try to implement 7th pay commission for teachers and non-teaching staff in Maharashtra, like central government employees”.

The Facebook post reads:

Vote for Prof. Sandip Trambyakrao Bedse, TDF’s official candidate, and make him win with a massive margin. Don’t fall for Paithani (saree) and other false promises, give your invaluable vote to Sandip Bedse who understands teachers’ issues.

In recent times, ‘fake news’ has become an epidemic. So-called celebrity journalists are often, on one hand, very vocal about the fake news menace that has infiltrated the social media space, and on the other frequently indulge in the same.

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