NEW DELHI: The Delhi Police Crime Branch conducted searches at the residences of ‘The Wire’ founder Siddharth Varadarajan and founding editor M K Venu after an FIR was registered on BJP leader Amit Malviya’s complaint.
On Saturday, an FIR was registered by the Delhi Police against The Wire on BJP leader Amit Malviya’s complaint alleging that it “forged documents with a view to malign and tarnish my reputation.” Malviya registered a complaint alleging that the news website “forged documents with a view to malign and tarnish” his reputation.
The Delhi Police said they have seized electronic devices (mobiles, laptops) from the residences of Siddharth Varadarajan, M K Venu and others. No notice was given to anyone and no inquiry has taken place today. Further investigation is going on and necessary steps will be taken, added the Delhi Police.
Malviya, who is head of BJP’s Information and Technology Cell, had filed a criminal complaint against The Wire and its top editors with the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) on Saturday. In his complaint, the BJP leader had sought registration of FIR under sections 420, 468, 469, 471, 500 r/w 120B and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
In FIR names mentioned are The Wire, its founding editors Siddharth Vardarajan, Siddharth Bhatia and MK Venu, and Jahnavi Sen, deputy editor and executive news producer.
The complaint had said FIR should also be registered against the Foundation of Independent Journalism and other unknown persons “for the offences punishable u/s 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating), 469 (Forgery for purpose of harming reputation), 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record.), 500 (Punishment for Defamation) r/w 120B and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860”.
The complaint to Delhi Police had said that “the accused persons have, with common intention, conspired to maliciously defame the complainant and the BJP by spreading false news to the public”. The matter pertains to Meta stories which were “retracted” by The Wire. It retracted the stories after Meta and various other experts pointed out critical flaws in their reporting.
Amit Malviya had alleged in a statement on Friday that on October 6, 2022, The Wire published a report claiming that Meta (the parent company that owns Facebook and Instagram) had removed an Instagram post within a few minutes of it being uploaded by a private account namely “Cringearchivist”. The report claimed that the company regularly colludes with members of the BJP in removing content deemed unfavourable to the party.
He further had said that on October 10, 2022, the news website went on to claim that “I was the nodal point, interfacing between the party and Meta, for said censorship activity, having been bestowed certain “XCheck” and other privileges by the company”.
“As per the report, this status had bestowed on me the following powers overriding any filters, algorithms, vetting, verification or any other checks and balances within the company,” Malviya said. He had alleged that the report went on to cite alleged internal correspondence of Meta to justify its claims, alleging had used said privileges to take down a total of 705 posts to date.
“On October 11, 2022, Meta’s Communication Head, Andy Stone, had issued a categorical denial and stated that the documents presented by ‘The Wire’ in its report were fabricated’ and that the “Xcheck” status had been mischaracterized. Once Meta issued this statement, ‘The Wire’ should have at the very least paused its coverage of this issue and commenced an internal audit.
Instead, on the same day, it went on to publish yet another malicious report claiming to have accessed further internal emails of Meta employees, namely those exchanged between Andy Stone and his team, purportedly trying to effect a coverup,” he had said in a statement on Friday.
He had stated that The Wire publicly apologised to its readers on October 27 and retracted the stories about “XCheck” and Meta after scathing public scrutiny and the exposure of significant fabrication of dates, times and content in its alleged “proof”.
“However, even while retracting the story, The Wire’ refrained from apologizing to me, despite maligning and tarnishing my reputation and causing serious harm to my professional career. My role requires me to vociferously advocate the BJP’s point of view on national issues, across platforms,” he had said.
“This role is based on trust and camaraderie, between me and my interlocutors across platforms and more importantly with the public. However, The Wire’s stories have vitiated the atmosphere and severely dented relationships and trust built over the years for me to carry out the functions of my responsibility,” the BJP leader added.
Stating that The Wire and some unknown persons entered into a “criminal conspiracy” with the intent to “malign and tarnish” his reputation, he said that the news portal “deliberately” inserted his name into a story, and “fabricated” evidence to “implicate” him.
“This also undermines the democratic and informed choices that the public makes, through a carefully calibrated campaign of disinformation and calumny, and does irreparable harm to the democratic right of dissent,” he had said.
The complaint to the police had also said that The Wire “with the help of such fabricated and false stories tries to attract viewership on its website wherein readers are requested to donate money in the name of “true and independent journalism”.
Malviya, who is also BJP’s co-incharge for West Bengal, had said on Thursday that he will sue the news website for damages.
“After consultation with my lawyers and seeking their advice, I have decided to file criminal and civil proceedings, against ‘The Wire.’ Not only will I be setting the criminal process in motion but I will also sue them in a civil court seeking damages as they forged documents with a view to malign and tarnish my reputation,” Malviya had said.
Last week, The Wire formally retracted its Meta stories “after conducting an internal review of the technical source material used, with the help of external experts”.
The Wire said it is also conducting a comprehensive editorial review of the internal editorial processes “which resulted in the publication of these stories in order to identify and plug any and all shortcomings”. (ANI)