Swarajya uses fake WhatsApp forward to cast doubt on Javed Akhtar winning Dawkins award

The rumour-mongering was put to rest by Richard Dawkins himself, who congratulated Akhtar on Twitter.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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On June 9, Swarajya magazine reported on a “few social media users” casting doubt on the lyricist Javed Akhtar winning the Richard Dawkins Award 2020, and actress Shabana Azmi’s response to them.

These doubts were based on a WhatsApp forward tweeted by an anonymous account.

The forward claimed that “Indian lefties” in London had requested Dawkins to present the award to Akhtar over email, but the lyricist misunderstood the proposal and announced that he had won the award.

The message was circulated by Hindu nationalist tweeters.

Swarajya reported: “A couple of days after various media outlets shared the news of Akhtar winning the award, a WhatsApp message began doing the rounds which claimed to explain why no official announcement has been made to this tune either by Dawkins or the organisation responsible for conferring the award.”

On June 9, fact checkers at Boom reached out to Azmi, Akhtar’s wife, and published the emails sent to the lyricist by Dawkins and Robyn Blumner, the president and CEO of New York-based Centre for Inquiry, congratulating him for winning the award.

In its article, Swarajya published old tweets by Dawkins claiming he had no “direct connection” with the award, and wrote that “social media users thus questioned as to how Azmi is claiming to have received a mail from Dawkins if he has no direct association with the award”.

The same day, Dawkins announced that Akhtar was indeed the recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award for 2020, for his “courageous public stands on behalf of atheism, rationality, and freethought”.


Swarajya soon updated its article to include this announcement. However, it still did not clarify that the WhatsApp message was fake.

In January this year, Swarajya had falsely reported that Naeem Khan, convicted in an acid attack case in 2013, was portrayed by a character called ‘Rajesh’ in Deepika Padukone-starrer Chhapak film.


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