On the basis of a complaint by BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya, an FIR has now been filed in Delhi against the Wire and its senior editors over the controversial Meta reports. This comes two days after the BJP leader said he will file criminal charges against the news portal and also seek damages in a civil court for allegedly forging documents to malign and tarnish his reputation.
In his complaint to the special commissioner, crime, of the Delhi Police on Saturday, Malviya sought an FIR against the portal’s founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, MK Venu and deputy editor Jahnavi Sen. He listed sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 34 (common intention), 500 (defamation) and 120(B).
The complaint alleged that the accused “maliciously fabricated internal emails of Meta” to “vindictively prove their point” in order to “cause reputational damage” to the BJP and Malviya. “The Wire, with the help of such fabricated and false stories, tries to attract viewership on its website…however, the donations received are utilised towards manufacturing false and misleading stories,” the complaint alleged, adding that it is not the first time that the accused published “fake news”.
Pointing to the Tek Fog report, the complaint said it was used by national and international media to “downgrade India and the thriving democracy of our country”.
The Wire earlier released a statement saying, “In the life of any publication, an occasion may come when it is misinformed.” Reiterating that it had been the victim of “fraud perpetrated upon a publication”, it said, “Whether the person who brought all the material to the Wire deceived us at anyone else’s behest or acted on his own is a matter that will be subjected to judicial process in due course. The malintent to discredit the Wire is obvious.”
The news website said the “internal editorial processes which preceded publication of these stories did not meet the standards that the Wire sets for itself and its readers expect from it”.
According to the statement, the stories did not “hold up” due to a combination of “not fully grasping the complexities of technology and a slippage in editorial assessment of tech-related matters”.
On the need to cross-check “complex technical evidence” with experts, the statement said: “Had we done this before publication rather than after the fact, this would have ensured that the deception to which we were subjected by a member of our Meta investigation team was spotted in time.” The website’s editorial team “takes moral responsibility for the omission”.
Earlier this month, the Wire had published two stories on Meta’s XCheck programme. Meta responded that the Wire’s documents were “fabrications”. Later in the week, the Wire published details of the technical process it followed, including redacted emails from two experts. Both experts subsequently told Newslaundry they had not been part of the process.
The Wire its stories on October 18, and on October 23.
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