Social Media is awash with a viral claim that news agency ANI interviewed the same person for the recently passed farm bills and the demonetisation that the Modi government had ordered in 2016. Photos of two similar-looking man were shared by the national social media co-ordinator of Congress Vinay Kumar Dokania to allege that ANI sought views from the same man who lauded demonetisation in 2016 for the recently passed farm bills.
INC social media co-ordinator shares a fake tweet of a farmer resembling a man ANI interviewed in 2016
A tweet posted by Vinay Kumar Dokania, National co-ordinator of the social media for the Indian National Congress, instantly went viral in which he has alleged that a farmer who was recently interviewed by ANI had earlier worked with the news agency in 2016 for praising PM Modi after he announced demonetisation and Digital India initiative.
The claim was vigorously denied by Smita Prakash, the Editor-in-chief of ANI, who claimed that the pictures belonged to two different individuals and that Dokania was lying.
However, the tweet’s reach was amplified when Abhishek Dutt, the Vice President of Delhi Congress quoted Dokania’s tweet, asking Smita Prakash if what the tweet asserted was true. The ANI Editor-in-chief responded that his colleague started the controversy with his fake tweet and his tweet amplified the fake tweet.
Dutt shot back that he will get it removed as soon as possible if the tweet was fake. However, despite explicit clarification from Smita Prakash, the tweet has not been removed at the time of writing this article. Instead, the tweet has been widely shared on Twitter by ANI detractors, accusing the channel of planting respondents.
Smita vigorously refutes allegations of ANI planting respondents to show the government in a good light
As the tweet started doing the rounds on the microblogging website, users also raised questions over the journalistic ethics followed by ANI. One of the Twitter user, Vaibhav Vishal, went so far as to claim that the farmer did not appear like a farmer because he was wearing a brand new scarf, vest and all. Vishal suggested Smita question her team because the man did not jibe with his perceived image of a rural farmer.
Sorry (not really) that a farmer, among the millions in this country, doesn’t fit your Bollywoodian image of a starving emanciated kisan— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) September 22, 2020
However, Smita took a jibe at the Twitter user, apologising that a man did not fit his image of a starving emaciated farmer.
But the rap on the knuckles did not deter Vishal from brazening out his stand. Sharing the images of farmers interviewed by the ANI, Vishal pontificated that ANI should introspect as the farmers donning new kurtas and super white vests give an appearance of fabrication.
Read, Smita. READ (really). I am NOT saying the starving emaciated kisaan is the Bollywood kisaan. The fake gamchha-ganji combo makes the Bollywood kisaan. The farmers in ALL your pics look manufactured with their brand new kurtas and super white ganjis.— Vaibhav Vishal (@ofnosurnamefame) September 22, 2020
Introspect. Don’t react. pic.twitter.com/qA7T04jP22
A war of words erupted after the fake tweet was shared by a veteran Army officer who sought an explanation or rebuttal from Smita Prakash about the fake allegations. A Twitter user responded to the tweet alleging that ANI is doing all it can for its masters but was caught red-handed. Mr Thapar replied saying that he could not understand how could people appear on TV debates as “a guest, sanctimonious, holier than thou, preach ethics and call out people for their duplicity”.
You are the one who is a copy paste artiste who doesn’t know fact from fiction and accuse others without verification. The pix is not of the same person, Mister Thapar.— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) September 22, 2020
Taking cognisance of this oblique remark, Smita Prakash slammed the veteran officer, calling him a “copy paste artiste” who could not distinguish fact from fiction and accuse others without verification. Mr Thapar expressed his gratitude for the clarification issued by Ms Prakash but questioned her for her angst.
Yes. You called me ‘sanctimonious’ and other such things in your tweet. I can give it back just as good as I get. Since you apparently wore a uniform you should appreciate an adversary who will not be bullied.— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) September 22, 2020
Smita responded, “Yes. You called me ‘sanctimonious’ and other such things in your tweet. I can give it back just as good as I get. Since you apparently wore a uniform you should appreciate an adversary who will not be bullied.”
However, Brig Sandy Thapar replied with another tweet, stating that his comment was on the general of state of affairs in the media and why did Smita Prakash took an “udta teer’. Mr Thapar further added that one should not take him for gullible fools who cannot make out affiliations/loyalties. He also said that channels being biased is acceptable but news agencies taking sides is “despicable”.
Who said anyone takes you for a fool? Your affiliations are very clear by reading your timeline. Your snide comment was directed at me and no ‘udtaa teer’ . You probably fired duds in your career and think civilians like me can’t see what did.— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) September 22, 2020
To this tweet, Smita sharply retorted, noting that his affiliations are crystal clear by reading his timeline and that she could very well discern that his disparaging remark was directed at her.
ANI gets attacked while news agency PTI gets free pass
While news agency ANI gets attacked time and again, mostly by propagandists who rush to accuse it of being a ‘propaganda’ outlet, they usually give another news agency, PTI, a free pass for misquoting leaders like PM Modi and even sharing fake images.
In August this year, PTI was found misquoting PM Modi on absolute number of coronavirus cases in India. Prior to that, in June, PTI interviewed Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong wherein he blamed India for the clash between the two countries at Galwan Valley. PTI received flak over the fact that its journalist did not bother to counter-question the Chinese ambassador on his dubious claims. People had also pointed out that the ‘interview’ came across as a press release by the Chinese Communist Party rather than a genuine interview.