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After whitewashing Islamists, AltNews gets new client – decides to clean up the mess for China

For AltNews, while Indian officials have "claimed" that it was China that crossed the LAC, China has "blamed" Indian troops. While in isolation, there is nothing wrong with the words used, together, it would seem that AltNews is trying to cast aspersions on India's position and paint the Chinese position as the gospel truth.

With every border skirmish that India gets caught up in, either with China or with Pakistan, several media houses in India transform into the state propaganda arms of the enemy nation. With the recent standoff between India and China at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, several such elements have come out of the woodworks to act as the official propaganda arms of the Communist state. One of the portals that have taken it upon itself to defend China and ensure that “their version” is propagated in India, is the pretend fact-check website AltNews.

AltNews has mostly be seen as an Islamist propaganda website that often whitewashes the crimes of violent mobs and shields perpetrators who belong to the Muslim community. The running theory was that just as all ‘liberals’, AltNews too harbours a deep-seated hatred for Hindus and considers Islamists as an ally in their crusade against the ‘Kaffirs’. It was often assumed that their hate for Prime Minister Narendra Modi too stems from their hatred for Hindus. However, with the India-China standoff and AltNews’ reportage of it, it is becoming exceedingly clear that their hate for PM Modi and Hindus and gone a step ahead and transformed into unbridled hate for India itself.

The standoff at Galwan Valley between the Indian forces and China resulted in India losing 20 soldiers. As is engrained in India’s ethos, the casualties were claimed and tribute was paid to their valour. However, China refused to claim its dead. Throughout the day when speculations were rife, Chinese propaganda arms went into overdrive to hide the number of casualties on their side. Helping them, was AltNews.

The first ‘fact-check’ by AltNews that furthered the Chinese propaganda

The first article that AltNews published was headlined, “Indian journalists quote Chinese casualties based on unverified source”.

AltNews article defending China
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In this article, essentially, AltNews tried to “fact-check” the “rumour” about 5 Chinese soldiers being killed during the standoff with India. The Chief Reporter with Chinese state propaganda channel Global Times had tweeted that 5 Chinese soldiers were killed and 11 were injured during the standoff. This news was then picked up by several Indian journalists and Media houses.

At this point, it is pertinent to note that it was already confirmed that India had lost 3 soldiers in the skirmish including a Commanding Officer of the Battalion.

Now, if the Chief Reporter of Global Times, which is a Chinese state propaganda channel, tweets the number of casualties, it is generally going to be considered to be coming from reliable sources.

It turns out, China was not happy with its journalist going “rogue” and talking about the number of casualties on their side. GlobalTimes tweeted immediately “clarifying” that the portal had not reported any official numbers of casualties on the Chinese side. The Chief reporter of Global Times promptly deleted her tweets and unsurprisingly, blamed Indian Media for their misreporting claiming that her tweet was in turn based on Indian media.

Interestingly, it must be noted that the “clarification” by GlobalTimes came only minutes before Wang Wenwen tweeted blaming India media for being irresponsible.

When dealing with Chinese media and journalists, there are certain ground rules that every journalist keeps in mind. Firstly, any information that comes out of China is controlled by the Communist state. There are no ‘independent’ media houses in China. Moreover, on Twitter especially, any Chinese individual or Chinese media company operates with the explicit permission of the government of China since Twitter is banned in China. Of course, many civilians do use other methods to log in, but media and journalists function on social media with the permission of the Chinese government and mostly, at the behest of the Chinese government.

The Chinese authoritarian regime exercised strict control on the flow of information even to its own citizens. So to expect that any information that comes from China will not be a part of the propaganda war is being naive at best, malicious at worst.

In this scenario, what likely happened was that the journalist tweeted initial reports that were being whispered by sources. After she tweeted, she must have received blowback from GlobalTimes, which is the Chinese government propaganda arm and thus, blamed Indian media instead and deleted her tweet.

It is important to note that China has been trying to hide the number of casualties on its side in a bid to ensure that their numbers are not reported as higher than the Indian side.

So at this point of time, for AltNews to “fact-check” and claim that Indian journalists were on the wrong signifies two things:

  1. AltNews was far more inclined to believe the word of GlobalTimes, a Chinese state-controlled media, than its own journalists. Since the Chinese govt was trying its best to hide casualties, it is entirely possible that at initial stages of information flow, the news was that 5 Chinese soldiers were killed and 11 were injured. For AltNews to “fact-check” this essentially does not make sense since it seems to be considering Chinese propaganda as the gospel truth.
  2. AltNews actively helped China in its psychological warfare since the aim of hiding the numbers, to begin with, was to insinuate that it was India that suffered casualties and China did not.

It is pertinent to keep in mind that both journalist Wang Wenwen and Global Times are on Twitter with the explicit sanction of the Chinese government since Twitter is banned in China. Hence, AltNews helped the Communist state of China to spread confusion and further their propaganda at a time when India and China were face-to-face in a violent standoff.

The second ‘fact-check’ by AltNews that furthered the Chinese propaganda

AltNews was so agitated by the news of Chinese casualties, that in the span of just a few hours, they ended up publishing not just one, but two so-called ‘fact-check’ articles that discredited Indians in order to reinforce the Chinese propaganda.

The second article published by AltNews was headlined, “India-China dispute: 43 Chinese soldiers killed? Media outlets and journalists mislead”.

In this article, AltNews cited the tweets by ANI that said that 43 Chinese soldiers were either killed or wounded. Several Indian journalists reported that 43 Chinese soldiers were killed during the clash at Galwan.

AltNews wrote a ‘fact-check” saying that the news of 43 soldiers killed on the Chinese side was ‘fake news’ since the ANI tweet said that the number of casualties was 43, which included dead and injured.

Further, AltNews relied on GlobalTimes to further this ‘fact-check’. Calling the GlobalTimes and its Editor’s tweets as “official information”, the AltNews report said, “The Chinese government has not revealed the number of casualties on their side. The Editor-in-Chief of China-based Global Times tweeted this earlier today. Furthermore, no official figures on the Chinese casualties have been put out by the Indian army as well”.

Firstly, AltNews is being dishonest with its readers when it calls Globaltimes “China-based” giving it far more credibility than it deserves. GlobalTimes is the propaganda arm of the Chinese govt and any experienced journalist would know that China is a master of psychological warfare and any information coming from China is unreliable and strategic propaganda.

The number of dead in China could be 50 or 100 or even 200 and there can be no confirmation on that since China is trying its best to further the perception that the casualties were far more on the Indian side than the Chinese side. AltNews, with this “fact-check”, is merely furthering that propaganda by muddying the waters.

The only ‘fact-check’ that should be done here is about the intention of the Chinese govt being tight-lipped and the propaganda warfare that it is unleashing on India. However, AltNews seems to be actively helping China in muddying the waters and furthering the psychological warfare that is being unleashed by the Communist govt.

Interestingly, there is a dichotomy in the two fact-checks by AltNews. While in the first ‘fact-check’, AltNews brands Indian journalists as liars for trusting the Chief Reporter of GlobalTimes, in the second ‘fact-check’, they cite the Editor of Global Times as an authority that is tweeting the official position of China.

In both these instances, the aim of AltNews seems to be simple – discredit India and give legitimacy to Chinese propaganda.

The extent of propaganda by China that AltNews will be blind to

While India’s official position is that all the activity happened on the Indian side of the border, China has been claiming that it was India that breached the Line of Actual Control and attacked the Chinese soldiers.

The timeline of the conflict that has now emerged proves India’s position.

After the initial talks of disengagement, China came back mid-week to set up a camp on the Indian side. India then proceeded to dismantle that camp and during that, a scuffle had broken out, however, the Chinese soldiers were sent packing to their side after the scuffle. Over the weekend, the Chinese soldiers returned with a larger group of soldiers. Some stone-pelting took place on Sunday, June 14.

According to a report by Defence journalist Shiv Aroor, On Monday (June 15) evening, clashes broke out on a ridgeline with a high drop towards the Galwan river. The clashes escalated rapidly and according to sources, many Indians soldiers fell into the river during the scuffle.

Thereafter, Colonel Santosh Babu of 16 Bihar Regiment went to discuss the situation with the Chinese troops and it is then that he was attacked and severely injured by the Chinese soldiers.

The standoff then continued and according to Aroor, “The Indian troops assaulted the Chinese post with brutal strength and seriously injured nearly 55-56 Chinese solider. Many casualties were inflicted at this point. Sources said there were many fatalities on the Chinese side but there was no confirmation on the exact number“. “Fighting stopped well after midnight. Several bodies of the soldiers were fished from the river, while, many injured succumbed by morning, sources said“.

From the timeline reported by Shiv Aroor, it is evident that it was the Chinese side indulging in provoking Indian side and India was merely defending its own territory.

With the facts of the matter being as clear as day, China continued its propaganda and claimed in a press conference that it was India that attacked China and that the skirmish happened on China’s side of the border.

With the Wuhan Coronavirus fiasco, it was already evident that China does not shy away from misleading the entire world when it comes to their self-interest or their expansionist policies.

For AltNews to now take China’s word as the gospel truth and discredit Indiaa’s version only reeks of their intent.

The intent of AltNews is rather evident even from the words they choose to use while writing the asinine fact-checks.

Introductory paragraph from ‘fact-check’ by AltNews

For AltNews, while Indian officials have “claimed” that it was China that crossed the LAC, China has “blamed” Indian troops. While in isolation, there is nothing wrong with the words used, together, it would seem that AltNews is trying to cast aspersions on India’s position and paint the Chinese position as the gospel truth.

Propaganda website AltNews has been largely peddled as an authentic source of fact-checks by the entire Left cabal. Their articles are peddled by any anti-government, anti-Hindu riffraff that the ecosystem has to offer and they often claim that their method is rather elaborate and authentic. With patrons like Arundhati Roy, who regularly speaks in a language that can only be called one that resonates with Naxals and every element that wishes to tear India apart, AltNews has gained a reputation amongst right-thinking individuals as a mouthpiece of Islamists. The so-called fact-checking website regularly furthers fake news, obfuscates the truth, concocts details to shield Islamists and sometimes, even creates fake news simply to fact check it later.

Further, AltNews uses some standard tools to further their propaganda which invariably goes against the interests of the country. They peddle downright lies, muddle the waters, deliberately mislead, whitewash crimes and doxx anybody who tries to expose their methods. With the India-China standoff and the situation escalating, one can only hope that AltNews finds whatever shred of conscious they have left and not hurt India’s interest to protect those of the nation’s enemies.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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