A day after deciding to suspend a controversial Hinduphobic web series – ‘Godman’, the online streaming platform Zee5 stoked another controversy on Thursday by muzzling voices on social media who questioned their association with comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB) whose founders have been accused in sexual harassment cases during the MeToo movement.
On Thursday, the official Twitter handle of OTT platform Zee5 Premium took to Twitter to market a movie named ‘Chintu Ka Birthday’, which is scheduled to be released on June 5. The media group promoted the movie by asking people to retweet the post shared by its handle. In the post, the controversial comedy group All India Bakchod was also tagged.
The movie – ‘Chintu Ka Birthday’ is produced by AIB members Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi, and Ashish Shakya under the banner First Draft Entertainment. Some of the members of the AIB are not only accused of staying silent to sexual misconduct of their collaborators but one of the founding members – Tanmay Bhatt was himself accused of sexual misconduct allegations.
Reportedly, the film was supposed to be premiered in 2018 at MAMI film festival but was later dropped from the festival after some of its members got embroiled in MeToo controversy and festival organisers had decided to drop the film.
On Thursday, netizens took to Twitter to question the decision of Zee5 to give platform to the comedy group AIB amidst allegations of sexual misconduct against its promoters. However, the OTT platform rather than addressing the issue decided to hide the replies on Twitter which highlighted the alleged sexual misconduct of AIB promoters.
The hiding of replies by a user indicates that Zee5 not only refused to respond to legitimate questions posed by the users but also tried to hide the details of one of its promoters being accused under grave charges of sexual conduct.
Here are some of the replies which were hidden by Zee5 on Twitter:
One user named Akash Yadav said Zee5 must be feeling very proud by associating with ‘sexual predators’ of AIB. The Zee5 hid this tweet from public display.
Vishwas, whose tweet was also hid by the Zee5, had questioned them regarding their endorsement to AIB.
Avdesh Tyagi’s tweet, which had reference to AIB, added that it was the same Zee5 which had tried to release a conspiracy/propaganda web series against Hinduism to insult the Hindu religion. His tweet was also censored by the OTT platform.
Twitter’s hide reply feature is a censorship tool
The hide reply feature was added by Twitter last year, in the name of giving more control to the users. This feature lets users hide replies posted to tweets by the users. Although the stated reason for the reason was to filter out replies to give more control over conversations, this has become a major tool of censorship and hiding inconvenient truths. For example, if someone posts fake news, and others reply to it pointing out that it is fake and provide the truth, the Twitter user can hide those replies. Therefore, when others see that tweet and its replies, they will not know that it is fake. Similarly, Zee5 hid the tweets pointing out the background of the AIB, therefore people who are not aware of their misdeeds will not be aware of the same.
Sexual misconduct charges against AIB co-founders
In October 2018, during the MeToo movement, the AIB co-founders – Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba were accused of sexual misconduct. The company had halted its operation and sacked its entire staff after Bhat and Khamba were caught in two separate sexual harassment allegations.
An anonymous woman had accused Khamba of forcing himself on her. According to the girl, they were in a casual relationship earlier but he had tried to force himself to make out with her. She had also accused him of threatening her and being emotionally abusive towards her.
Another girl accused AIB co-founder Tanmay Bhat of sending her inappropriate messages. Tanmay Bhat had also admitted that he knew about another comedian, Utsav Chakraborty’s sexual transgressions and harassment of women but stayed silent on it.
Following the allegations, All India Bakchod had released a statement saying both Bhat and Khamba have been sacked from the group. However, Bhat seems to have joined the comedy group now, leading to outrage across the social media.