Engineer, lawyer set up group to monitor 'biased and fake' news, draw flak from journalists
Journalists expressed concern over the setting up of the group, saying it may harass and intimidate scribes and social media users. Reports By: PTI MUMBAI: An aeronautical engineer from Mumbai and a Delhi-based lawyer have come together to set up a group, which will monitor news reports and social media posts that are "biased and fake" and take necessary action. The organisation, "India Against Bias Media" (IABM), has been formed by Vipul Saxena, an aeronautical engineer, and Vibhor Anand, a Supreme Court lawyer. The group has been filing cases against disseminators of reports, which are aimed at, "destroying religious and social fabric of the country", Saxena said. However, journalists expressed concern over the setting up of the group, saying it may harass and intimidate scribes and social media users. The duo had been working on the project for the last two years, but made a soft-launch of the forum on Twitter over a week ago. Since then, they have filed almost two dozen cases, mainly of sedition, across the country against several people. "We are getting full support from people of clean and responsible media and not going to deter from wrong doers. Either self regulate or we regulate them legally. We are teams of professionals from all domains backed by strong teams of lawyers across," Saxena tweeted yesterday. The 54-year-old dismissed suggestions that his organisation was like a pressure group or a media watchdog and also denied any political affiliation. "Our team of legal experts will deal with those who indulge in circulation of biased, fake, manipulated, morphed or doctored contents which could create social or religious disharmony, trigger riots or show disrespect to people on top constitutional posts like prime minister and president. "We will never stage dharna or protest march, but will deal with such people legally as we have full faith in the Constitution," Saxena told PTI. He said in the last four to five days, IABM has filed sedition cases against actor Swara Bhasker in several police stations across the country and also a Youtuber, Dhruv Rathi. Bhasker had tweeted a picture of a man tied to a jeep as a "human shield" by an Army officer in Kashmir last year to deter stone-pelters. Besides, cases were lodged against a few journalists for their tweets in the wake of an attack on JNU student leader Umar Khalid in New Delhi, Saxena said. "Most of the cases have been filed under IPC sections like 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 153(A) (promoting enmity between different groups)," he said. If individuals booked under these charges express regret or say sorry for their comments or tweets, IABM will withdraw the cases against them, Saxena said. "We are not trying to silence dissent or suppress the freedom of speech and expression. We are trying to make people responsible for what they speak or write," the aeronautical engineer said. "We can not remain a mute spectator and see the country's social harmony being vitiated," he asserted. Asked who will decide whether a news report is "biased or fake", Saxena said, "We have teams of professionals who know which news contains truth and which one is motivated." He said the Press Council of India (PCI) has proved ineffective in its job as a media regulator. "When the PCI starts doing its true job, we will pack our bags," Saxena added. City-based journalist Jatin Desai was critical of the new group, saying its existence will prove detrimental to democratic values of the country. "Forming different opinions and openly expressing them are the heart and soul of a democratic country. These people are trying to harass journalists and people (social media users) by selectively filing cases against them." "Dissent can never be suppressed. Otherwise, we will have a handicapped democracy," said Desai, a member of the Mumbai Press Club.
CREDIT: BUSINESS STANDARD