Delhi Police on Saturday filed an FIR against news portal ‘The Wire’ and its editors on a complaint by BJP IT department head Amit Malviya accusing the media outlet of “cheating and forgery” and “tarnishing” his reputation.
Malviya had on Friday said he would pursue criminal and civil proceedings against the portal over stories, since retracted, that insinuated the BJP leader enjoyed the privilege on Meta platforms of having any post taken down which he believed was against the BJP’s interests.
Further details of police action are awaited.
Malviya’s complaint was filed with Delhi Police’s special commissioner (crime) against The Wire, its founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia and M K Venu, deputy editor and executive news producer Jahnavi Sen, the Foundation for Independent Journalism and other unknown people.
The complaint was filed for various offences punishable under sections 420 (cheating), 468 and 469 (forgery), 471 (fraud), 500 (defamation) r/w 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (criminal act) of the Indian Penal Code.
“I am filing the present complaint for the offences of cheating, forgery for the purpose of harming the reputation, using as genuine a forged document or electronic record and defamation amongst other provisions of the IPC by the accused,” read Malviya’s complaint.
Though ‘The Wire’ has apologised to its readers and withdrawn the stories as questions, including from experts, mounted over their veracity, the BJP leader had noted that it has refrained from apologising to him despite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. This role is based on trust and camaraderie between me and my interlocutors across platforms and more importantly with the public,” he had said in a statement on Friday.
“However, The Wire’s stories have vitiated the atmosphere and severely dented relationships and trust built over years in order for me to carry out the functions of my responsibility,” he said.
The Wire, in a statement on Thursday, said journalists rely on sources for stories and do their best to verify material they receive.
“Technological evidence is more complicated and the usual due diligence may not always reveal the fraud perpetrated upon a publication. This is what happened to us,” it said.
Malviya had said The Wire’s reports alleged the Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) regularly colludes with members of the BJP in removing content deemed unfavourable to the party.
Even after Meta issued a categorical denial and said the documents shown by the portal were “fabricated” and that the ‘Xcheck’ status, the privilege reportedly bestowed on him, had been mischaracterised, The Wire instead of pausing its coverage and doing an internal audit went on to publish yet another “malicious” report, he had said.
The Editors Guild of India had on Friday also criticised the portal’s handling of the stories.
With inputs from NDTV