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Former Pilot ‘Followed By Modi’ & SC Lawyer Want's To Be India’s Media Vigilantes


Duo is in the process of registering NGO, India Against Biased Media, already filed cases against actor Swara Bhaskar, YouTuber Dhruv Rathee. New Delhi: A Mumbai-based former pilot, who interacts with journalists in the capacity of an aviation expert, and a Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer are trying to drum up support to launch a legal campaign against what they call “biased, adulterated and fake news” in the media. Vipul Saxena, the former pilot, and lawyer Vibhor Anand are in the process of registering an NGO, India Against Biased Media (IABM), and hope to formally launch it next month. Saxena’s Twitter bio says he is “followed by Modiji”. However, he quickly clarified that it has nothing to do with IABM. The founders claim it will be a platform without any political affiliation and will not limit its focus to traditional media only, but will also monitor media houses, journalists and opinion makers. The team plans to screen any ‘biased’ or ‘adulterated’ content on social media that they think can create social or religious trouble or threaten the national integrity. “The medium of communication may not be only print or electronic media. We are talking about anything that you are hearing, printing, circulating in public domain,” Saxena, who also identifies himself as a former journalist, told ThePrint. “We are only talking about content, which is biased, fake, manipulated, doctored, morphed where any kind of adulteration has been done to the real content that would have caused social religious disharmony, or any kind of riot…or anything to do with the national security or national pride,” he said. It was through social media that Saxena and Anand came to know each other personally and decided to launch IABM. ‘Press Council not acting well enough’ The group has already initiated action in three “cases”. One of the first targets was actor Swara Bhaskar. Although she is not a journalist, the group says she is an opinion maker on social media. IABM filed a case against Bhaskar for tweeting a picture of a man tied to a jeep, saying it reminded people of the human shield incident in Kashmir. The second case is against Dhruv Rathee, a freelance journalist and a YouTuber, for allegedly referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a liar, saying it is derogatory as the PM is a constitutional post and a symbol of “national pride and national dignity”. Besides, IABM has also filed for legal action against journalists for tweeting that there was an attack on JNU student Umar Khalid because of a ‘campaign’ against him. Calling it false news, Saxena and Anand claimed the facts of the case were not even established. “We would like all kind of media to do self-regulation. This is our first expectation,” said Saxena. “Secondly, the government has already formed Press Council of India which has full power to do what we are trying to suggest, but somehow we find that they are not acting well enough. We have been tweeting at them too,” he said. Plan of action The platform says it wants to make a clear distinction between its supporters and its volunteers. While IABM will not take any responsibility for what its supporters or followers do, the founders plan to choose their volunteers carefully and have a code of conduct for them as well. The volunteers will send potential cases of what they identify as biased or fake coverage on traditional and social media. IABM plans to have a core team comprising professionals from sectors such as finance, technology, administration, HR and law to vet these cases and see if any news or a social media post is actually inaccurate or biased and has potential to create social tensions. The platform, however, does not believe in reaching out to a media house or a journalist, in case of fake news, before taking them to court. Saxena says if IABM does reach out to the media for a chance to correct their posts, it will be akin to continuing with the same established system. IABM says it does not want any protracted legal battles and will take a step back if a journalist or an opinion maker or a media house is willing to apologise. No action against trolling The founders say IABM will not support using derogatory language while criticising someone or airing a difference of opinion. However, Saxena said IABM is fine with trolling, even if it is by its own volunteers, so long as the information its volunteers are putting out is factual and carries “the same standards and character expected from the media”. “Trolling is an individual action. What our people will not do is float fake or fabricated content,” Saxena said, adding the platform will sack any of its volunteers who do such things. However, the platform does not intend to take action against volunteers posting any casteist tweet or targeting someone based on their gender. When asked about it, Saxena said, “No. We will not work on that.” CREDITS: THE PRINT