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America’s NBC News platforms Alt News’ propagandists to malign India, cites their fictitious Nobel nomination without basic fact check

The objective of such an article cannot be mistaken: to malign India as a hub of non-left extremism and hate speech as Elon Musk refashions Twitter and rid it of its prejudice against voices that challenged the left’s political discourse and exposed its hypocrisy.

For years now, the bullies of the leftwing ecosystem have used Twitter to set political discourse and impose their views on others. That changed dramatically after Elon Musk took over Twitter, sending leftist commentariats into a tizzy and western publications into scaremongering over the fate of the social media behemoth under a tech billionaire who is determined to turn Twitter into a free speech paradise.

Several western dailies and media organisations have partaken in the propaganda efforts to undermine Musk’s takeover of Twitter, publishing countless articles to stoke unfounded fears about how his ambitions for the social media company would fuel hate speech and extremism in different parts of the world, helping ‘fascists’ dominate the public discourse.

As a part of this global Left’s effort to dissuade Musk from dismantling dubious mechanisms and structures built by Twitter’s preceding leadership, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), an American English-language commercial broadcast television and radio network, recently platformed propagandists from Alt News, a fringe far-leftist organisation infamous for shielding Islamists and pushing fake news that hews to its agenda. 

In an article about Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, NBC quoted Alt News’ Pratik Sinha, Mohammed Zubair, and others to malign India and kindle fears of the social media platform firehosing hate speech and extremism under its new owner.

Titled as ‘Elon Musk’s Twitter risks opening floodgates of hate speech and extremism in India’, the article relies on statements made by Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who is out on bail in connection with his incendiary Twitter posts insulting Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

In order to lend credence to its report and to possibly whitewash Alt News co-founders’ troubled antecedents, the American media outlet also peddled fake news that Pratik Sinha and Mohammed Zubair were ‘unofficially’ nominated for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, even though there exists no official list of the nominees for the prize.

“The fact-checking website’s work debunking fake news and calling out hate speech by powerful people against India’s ethnic and religious minorities has made it one of the country’s leading independent news outlets, earning its founders a mention on an unofficial shortlist for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize,” the NBC article read. 

Relevant section from the NBC’s article

The objective of such an article cannot be mistaken: to malign India as a hub of non-left extremism and hate speech as Elon Musk refashions Twitter and shreds its prejudice against voices that challenge the left’s political discourse and expose its hypocrisy. And in doing so, the American daily has relied on peddling fake news and glorifying one of the most notorious websites known for pushing propaganda under the garb of ‘fact-checking’. 

NBC peddles fake news that Zubair and Sinha were on ’unofficial list’ of Nobel Peace Prize nominations

While NBC article claimed that founders of Alt News were unofficially listed for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the reality is that Zubair and Sinha were never nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a lie which the duo allowed to travel far and wide even though they pride themselves on being ‘fake checkers’.

Earlier this year, TIME promoted a PR hoax claiming that Zubair and Sinha are among frontrunners for the Nobel Peace Prize. The propagandists from India’s Left ecosystem instantly lapped up the PR hoax, amplifying the fake news that the duo had indeed been nominated for the prestigious prize.

However, all these claims of Muhammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha were proven to be misleading and wrong. The Nobel committee does not reveal shortlists for awards for 50 years, but the source where the duo’s name comes from made it crystal clear that they were not even in contention, let alone in shortlist. Actually, the duo’s name was added as an afterthought in a Nobel Peace prize shortlist made by Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), which had actually ‘shortlisted’ Harsh Mander, and added the names of Md Zubair and Pratik Sinha as other probable names from India. 

In February this year, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) shortlisted people from around the world who they deemed fit to receive the Nobel Prize. Though their list has nothing to do with the actual list of laureates that receive the prize, they have been doing it since 2002. According to PRIO’s website, their list is widely covered by the international media. This year, PRIO’s director Henrik Urdal, who has been in the post since 2017, named Harsh Mander as one of the five shortlisted candidates that he thinks would be the best fit to receive the Nobel Prize.

In the para on shortlisted Harsh Mander, Alt News’s Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha were also listed as worthy candidates for a prize focused on “combating religious extremism and intolerance in India” as they have contributed significantly “to debunking misinformation aimed at vilifying Muslims in India.” However, they did not find a place in the five names and were mentioned under Harsh Mander’s “nomination” as an afterthought.

The five shortlisted by PRIO were 1. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya & Alexei Navalny, 2. International Court of Justice, 3. Harsh Mander & Karwan-e-Mohabbat, 4. Ilham Tohti, Agnes Chow & Nathan Law, and 5. HRDAG & CANVAS, and the Alt News founders were not among them. They were just mentioned under the para of Harsh Mander & Karwan-e-Mohabbat. 

Now, it is to be noted that the PRIO’s list has nothing to do with the Nobel Peace Prize. As per the guidelines laid down by the Nobel Committee, the director of PRIO is eligible to nominate anyone for the prize. However, according to PRIO’s website, PRIO’s director does not nominate anyone for the prize because of his active role as a commentator on the Peace Prize. It further reads, “Neither the Director nor the Institute he leads have any form of association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee.”

Secondly, NBC kept referring to Alt News as ‘fact-checking website’ whereas it has been an inexorable source of fake news and propaganda aimed at undermining the current regime in India and shielding Islamists responsible for undermining India’s social fabric. 

Recently, Bhilwara Police arrested PFI leader Abdul Salam over raising ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans after forensic examination of a video that has gone viral earlier this year. The video, which was from February 2021, showed throngs of rabble rousers chanting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. Alt News and its co-founder Mohammed Zubair had given a clean chit saying that not ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ but ‘SDPI Zindabad’ slogans were raised in the rally.

After police said forensic examination revealed the slogans chanted were ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, the other co-founder, Pratik Sinha, came to the defence of those chanting pro-Pakistan slogans. Sinha dismissed the forensic report as ‘faulty’ and said that the protesters were shouting ‘SDPI Zindabad’ and not ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.

Alt News and its devious modus operandi

Alt News has been leaning on dishonest methods as a part of its modus operandi to give a boost to its propaganda of keeping the Muslim victimhood narrative alive. It has mastered several methods to further its narrative while disproving a contrarian worldview. Besides using reverse search images for its propaganda purposes, it has also emphasised nitpicking about petty and irrelevant details of an incident to muddle the readers and sow doubts about the narrative around the incident.

For instance, in 2020, when the videos of Muslim vegetable vendors applying saliva to their produce had gone viral, Alt News tried to water down the act by alleging that the video of a Muslim vegetable vendor spitting on the vegetables was not from April but from February, as if spitting on the vegetables in February was totally in accordance with the prevailing societal norms.

Pratik Sinha—a veteran fake new peddler

Pratik Sinha, the co-founder of Alt News, has an equally unenviable record of peddling fake news. 

In December 2020, a social media user exposed the AltNews co-founder Pratik Sinha for flooding social media platforms with fake and misleading information. The social media user highlighted that Sinha, a self-described ‘fact-checker’, has an inveterate habit of spreading lies and distortions and has been doing so with impunity for the last few years.

The social media user posted a string of tweets exposing Sinha for spreading misinformation and lies. He shared various instances when the so-called ‘fact-checker’ was caught red-handed for disseminating propaganda.

The Twitter user said that Sinha, a Hindu-hater masquerading as a ‘fact-checker’, made a career out of abusing and denigrating PM Modi through dubious portals such as Truth of Gujarat, eopinion and Alt News.

Mohammed Zubair triggers Islamist violence in India, resulting in the deaths of innocent Hindus, including Kanhaiya Lal and Umesh Kolhe

Earlier this year, Mohammed Zubair sparked controversy after sharing a truncated video of Nupur Sharma’s comments on the Times Now debate and accused her of making derogatory remarks against the Islamic Prophet. 

Before long, the controversy gained epic proportions and transcended national boundaries as Arab countries made unsolicited comments, causing a diplomatic nightmare for India’s mission in the Persian Gulf. Islamists took to the streets, running riot and indulging in vandalism, and arson against what they perceived as an insult to Prophet Muhammad. Protest marches calling for the beheading of Nupur Sharma were carried out as participants shouted “sar tan se juda” chants against Nupur Sharma. In one instance, her effigy was left hanging from a cable, reminding Hindus of the fate that awaits them should they dare cite authentic and reliable Islamic Hadiths to comment on Prophet Muhammad.

While Islamists went on a rampage on the streets in many cities across the country, it was essentially Mohammed Zubair who was responsible for kindling a fire that had gone on to assume uncontrollable proportions. It was Zubair’s dog-whistling that made a mountain out of a molehill and painted a target behind the back of Nupur Sharma and anyone and everyone who came out in her support.

The ominous hounding of Nupur Sharma prompted many to extend their support to her. Kanhaiya Lal from Udaipur, Umesh Kolhe in Amravati, and many others extended their solidarity with the beleaguered leader, voicing their support for her amid the death threats from Islamists. 

And so, Lal was a marked man the moment he came out in support of Nupur Sharma. Islamists, provoked by Mohammed Zubair, dished out death threats to him for what they considered an unpardonable sin committed against Prophet. And days later, the Hindu man was killed for something as trivial as just sharing a social media post in support of Nupur Sharma.

Even though the Islamists on the ground were responsible for killing him, the buck does not stop there. They were puppets working at the behest of their masters, who were equally blameworthy for goading them into murdering Lal. In essence, Mohammed Zubair’s dog-whistling against Nupur Sharma instigated Islamists, who then went on to kill Lal for his support to the former BJP leader.

This makes Mohammed Zubair guilty of ‘stochastic terrorism’, a concept defined as the public demonisation of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted. It was Mohammed Zubair who spearheaded a campaign against Nupur Sharma, accusing her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad and letting loose an army of Islamists against her that ultimately hacked Lal to death. 

A similar fate befell Umesh Kolhe, a chemist living in Maharashtra’s Amravati, who was murdered by four Muslim assailants while he was returning from his pharmacy on the night of June 22. Kolhe, too, was murdered for his social media post supporting Nupur Sharma, who was hounded by Islamists and egged on by the likes of Mohammed Zubair for her comments defending her faith on a TV news debate where a fellow Muslim panellist was mocking Shivling discovered inside the premises of the contentious Gyanvapi mosque compound. 

Mohammed Zubair: Chronic fake news peddler with Hinduphobic tendencies

Days after India witnessed violent protests that saw Islamists running riot, indulging in violence over the alleged insult of Prophet Muhammad, Twitter user The Hawk Eye (@thehawkeye) shared a collage of past tweets and posts by Mohammed Zubair mocking Hindu Gods and beliefs.

In one of the tweets shared by The Hawk Eye, Zubair is seen mocking Shivling and comparing it with the top view of the Vatican City. He said the post comparing Shivling with the Vatican City inspired him to come up with a parody Facebook page ‘Unofficial: Subramanian Swamy’ in 2014.

Apparently, one of the posts on the Facebook page ‘Unofficial Mohammed Zubair‘ mocks Arun Govil to take a swipe at Lord Ram, suggesting that ISRO must consult the actor because he would know more about the rocketry.

Another post by ‘Unofficial Mohammed Zubair’ shows an aeroplane under the water with the caption: “Breaking: Pushpak Vimana used by Ravan 5000 years ago found in the Indian Ocean.”

Besides ridiculing Hindu Gods, Zubair has also poked fun at Hindu beliefs and took a dig at Sanskrit, regarded as one of the most important languages of Hinduism and the means of communication by the Hindu Gods. After being exposed for his Hinduphobic posts on Facebook, Zubair deactivated his page. 

On top of all this, Zubair is also a consummate fake news peddler. Here are 20 instances when Zubair has resorted to sharing falsehoods and misinformation. Though this list is not exhaustive, it demonstrates Zubair’s penchant for fake news.

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Amit Kelkar
Amit Kelkar
a Pune based IT professional with keen interest in politics

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