India: Two arrested for spreading misinformation about journalist Rana Ayyub

Mumbai cyber police have arrested two suspects involved in the dissemination of misinformation about journalist Rana Ayyub on March 5. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the action of the state’s police force and urges authorities to continue to prosecute those who commit crimes against journalists.

Rana Ayyub. Credits: CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP

On March 5, Vidyanshi Krishkumar Trivedi and Ayush Chandramohan Srivastav, two journalists affiliated with online media platform The Scoop Beats, were arrested after Ayyub registered a formal complaint with Mumbai Police on January 27, seeking justice for ‘targeted harassment’ and ‘fake news’ against her.

On January 26, The Scoop Beats published a doctored video of Ayyub, a Mumbai-based Washington Post columnist, which accused her of being aided by Pakistan and alleged that she was banned from Saudi Arabia. The video resulted in over 26,000 posts to social media platform Twitter, with Ayyub accusing the majority of users of abusive behaviour, including rape and death threats.

In her complaint to Mumbai police, Ayyub mentioned that The Scoop Beats used a doctored ‘tweet’ of hers in the background that said, “I hate India and I hate Indians”.

“This fake news has led to a barrage of hate against me…My timeline has been inundated with rape and death threats. I and my family are in imminent danger,” said Ayuub.

The arrests of Trivedi and Srivastav brings the total number of people apprehended under the case to three. On February 10, the Mumbai Police arrested Siddharth Shrivastav for his issuance of death and rape threats to Ayyub on social media.

Following the complaints by Rana Ayyub, The Scoop Beats claimed they were taking “stern measures” against the employees involved in the incident. The news portal also issued an apology to Ayuub on February 17 and removed video from its YouTube channel.

Ayyub, known  for her criticism of the Indian government, had receivedrape and death threats in July 2021 after publishing posts about a Kashmiri victim killed by the Indian police.

Female journalists continue to be disproportionately targeted for their work across the Asia Pacific. On the eve of International Women’s Day, the IFJ launched the results of two surveys conducted in early 2022 to assess the work of trade unions and media organisations in tackling online abuse of women journalists, finding that 79 per cent of IFJ unions and associations said they were aware of cases of online abuse among their members. A second survey found that only 20 per cent of media workers said their media employment adopted a protocol or mechanism that allows women journalists and media workers to report online abuse and be supported and protected in such cases.

IFJ said: “The IFJ welcomes the authorities’ action on Rana Ayyub’s case. Women journalists and media workers continue to be disproportionately targeted by online harassment, and further mechanisms must be introduced to protect against abuse in the name of media freedom. The IFJ urges the Indian authorities to continue action against the perpetrators of online abuse to ensure they are brought to justice.”  

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram