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Twitter, Journalists named for posts ‘flaring communal sentiments’ in Ghaziabad ‘attack

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Lucknow: Twitter, several journalists and Congress leaders have been named in an FIR by Uttar Pradesh Police for “flaring communal sentiments” after an elderly Muslim man claimed in a video that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant “Vande Mataram” and “Jai Shri Ram”on June 5. Police, however, have ruled out any “communal angle”.

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The FIR filed in Ghaziabad’s Loni area names journalists Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammed Zubair. Online news platform “The Wire”, and Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed and Maskoor Usmani have also been named. They have been accused of posting tweets without “verifying facts” and “giving a communal colour” to the incident.

While, the allegation against micro-blogging site is that it did not delete the tweet despite a clarification by the Ghaziabad police. A case under sections 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot), 153a (promoting enmity between different groups), 295a (intentions to outrage religious feeling), 505 (statement conducting public mischief) and 120b (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC has been registered at Loni police station.

Ruling out any communal angle in the case, the UP Police said Sufi Abdul Samad, the elderly man, was attacked by six men – Hindus and Muslims – who were unhappy over the amulets he had sold them. The FIR mentions several journalists – Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammed Zubair as well as online news platform “The Wire”.

In a tweet, Mohammed Zubair said, “I’ve deleted the videos that I had posted. The victim’s version of him being forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” at this point in time do not seem to add up based on my conversations with police authorities and other journalists reporting on this issue. (sic)”

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Yogi Adityanath’s media advisor Shalabh Mani Tripathi, replying to Mr Zubair’s post, tweeted a warning in Hindi, saying: “Right now, UP Police is hunting for the address. First, tell your address. This will no longer continue. Once the motive is attained, slyly delete the tweet and vanish,  frustrated people spreading agendas have been at it for too long. Every lie comes with a big price to pay and every agenda has a specific motive – conspiracy, (spreading) lies, hatred.”

This is the first case against Twitter where it has been held liable for third party content after Centre’s new rules for online news publishing platforms came into effect. The social media giant “has lost the legal shield”, sources in the government said, “as it failed to comply with the new IT rules”.

On Tuesday, the social media giant said it appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer as mandated by the Centre’s new laws. A spokesperson said the company “continues to make every effort” to comply with the new guidelines and is keeping the IT Ministry apprised of progress at every step of the process.

The move by Twitter assumes significance as the microblogging platform has been facing heat over delay in complying with the IT rules that mandate large digital platforms to undertake greater due diligence, and make them more accountable and responsible for the content that is hosted. As per the rules, significant social media intermediaries — those with over 50 lakh users — are required to appoint a grievance officer, a nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel have to be residents in India.

The Government had issued a notice to Twitter giving it one last chance to “immediately” comply with the new IT rules and warned that failure to adhere to the norms will lead to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act.

The case over the assault of elderly man was filed two days after the incident took place on June 5 under IPC sections 342, section 323, section 504, section 506.

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