Self-proclaimed fact-check website, AltNews had recently tried to dilute the charges of brutality heaped on the 3-year-old victim in Aligarh. They had taken it upon themselves to prove that “social media claims” of “the victim being raped, her eyes gouged, her arm amputated” etc were not true.
OpIndia spoke to the same SSP that AltNews had claimed to speak to. The SSP told OpIndia that AltNews had fabricated his quote and that the right arm of the victim was indeed amputated. He also said that the postmortem report does not mention whether the child was actually raped or not. The postmortem report generally does not make such conclusions. The report has been sent to 2 hospitals, he said, and the final conclusions should be available in the next few days.
It is pertinent to note that the postmortem report of the little girl from Aligarh mentioned categorically that ‘eye tissue absent, orbital socket intact’, abdominal organs missing, including the uterus and genital organs, etc.
After OpIndia spoke to SSP Kulhary, who categorically said that AltNews was fabricating his quote, AltNews published another article, after 6 long hours, just to blame OpIndia of lying.
In their report, they attach an audio clip where they claim SSP Kulhary had told them that the postmortem report mentions that rape had not happened and that the girl’s eyes were not gouged out, her arms were not amputated.
Interestingly, AltNews itself had updated their previous ‘fact-check’ with a note that Kulhry later confirmed that the girl’s arms were indeed amputated.
By blaming OpIndia of lying about AltNews, Altnews has not managed to either defend itself adequately or malign OpIndia. In fact, it has ended up exposing itself even further.
Even before OpIndia spoke to Kulhary, AltNews had admitted that while in their original fact-check they had claimed that the arm of the girl was not amputated, a subsequent conversation had confirmed that the right arm of the girl was indeed amputated. Further, in the conversation that AltNews relied upon, the question asked by AltNews was whether the postmortem report mentions that the child was raped. As journalists, one would certainly know that the postmortem report does not make conclusions but only indicates the physical state of the mortal remains. For example, Aligarh victim’s postmortem report indicated that her abdominal organs were missing, including the uterus and genital organs. Whether that, along with other physical indications, prove that rape had occurred is for hospitals and doctors to conclude.
The first question is why AltNews felt the need to do a fact-check even before the postmortem details were out in the open must be asked. News trickled in of a 3-year-old girl being brutalised and AltNews immediately jumps to discredit the brutality heaped on her. Why would they do that? Is it because the perpetrators were Muslims? This is a question only AltNews can answer.
The second question that must be asked from AltNews, is that even before OpIndia spoke to SSP Kulhary, it was already proven that he had given a statement at the time without the complete facts at his disposal. He first told them that the girl’s arms were not amputated and then, he retracted and said they were. When this happened, why did they not retract their ‘fact-check’? Also, were they not aware that the postmortem report does not make conclusions of whether rape had occurred or not? Did they not know that the postmortem report only indicates the physical condition of the mortal remains? If they did, why did they not ask SSP Kulhary further question? (OpIndia did and he confirmed that postmortem report does not make conclusions and that the conclusions from 2 hospitals were awaited). If they didn’t know, does it not reflect on their incompetency as ‘fact-checkers’?
The third question to be asked here is, after the OpIndia report where SSP Kulhary was heard saying that AltNews fabricated his quote, why did AltNews publish another report accusing OpIndia falsely, but not pulling down their so-called ‘fact-check’ that trivialised the brutality heaped on the Aligarh victim?
A normal news agency can be given benefit of doubt of missing some aspects in a developing story, but a self-declared fact-check outlet can’t ask for that luxury. The speed at which AltNews tried to come up with fact-check only proves that their primary motive was not to find the truth – as they should have waited for facts to emerge – but to defame those who disagree with them ideologically.
Trusting only the police’s tweets or statement cannot be called fact-check. Fact-checking cannot solely be dependent on what the authorities say or don’t say. Fact-checking has to be dependant on the independent search for answers with the application of one’s own logic and facts.
AltNews had in the past too made the same mistake, shamelessly so. A controversy erupted on December 17th 2018 when Rajasthan Police Twitter handle goofed up and ended up terming a real incident as fake news. A user had Tweeted about an incident in Utambar, Rajasthan where allegedly, some men had entered a Rajput’s home and misbehaved with his daughters. The Twitter user claimed that these were Muslim Congress supporters. Along with his tweet, he had attached a video as well. As it turns out, the video was of an old incident that took place in Ranchi, Jharkhand. However, the Rajasthan police Twitter handle took a screenshot of just the text part of the tweet and asserted that the news was fake.
We spoke to the investigating officer of the Utambar case and got a confirmation that the incident from Utambar was indeed true. However, the Rajasthan police Twitter handle had clearly goofed up in not including the screenshot of the old video posted by the Twitter user while terming it fake news and erroneously ended up terming the Utambar incident as fake news.
AltNews had then too done a ‘fact-check’ saying that the Rajasthan police did not term a true incident as fake when indeed, they had.
In this incident as well, AltNews did not care about the truth or the girls being harassed. They did not care about the facts of the case. Their aim was to defeat ideological opponents. In this case, it was not the Rajasthan police itself that had messed up but the PR agency that handled the Rajasthan Police’s Twitter account. Even then, AltNews chose to gloss over facts just so they can fetch a ‘fact-check’ against ideologically opposing OpIndia, perhaps because by that time, Rajasthan was governed by Congress and it was in their ideological interest to discredit any story of crime emanating from the state.
AltNews is shameless enough to do a fact-check just because an incident of crime against a child doesn’t suit their narrative, update their ‘fact-check’ with details that prove their ‘fact-check’ was a lie, then publish follow up articles accusing those who ‘fact-checked’ their lies, all the while, not pulling down their original ‘fact-check’ that has been proven to be a lie.
It takes a special breed of shamelessness to warm one’s hand on the funeral pyre of a little girl, but I guess that is what the Left does to one’s slightly deranged mind.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017