ANI mistakenly reports Muslim name arrested in Manipur rape case, multiple TV channels air before retracttext_fields
New Delhi: News agency Asian News International (ANI) made a glaring mistake when it erroneously reported an arrest made by Manipur police. The tweet should have circulated overnight on Thursday but was later retracted by ANI with an apology.
In its initial tweet, which was later proven to be false, the purported message from Manipur police claimed that "Md Ibungo alias Abdul Hilim (38) of Imphal East, a member of People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), was apprehended by Imphal East District Police."
The tweet also asserted, "Today, a total of three main accused involved in the abhorrent crime of abduction and gangrape under Nongpok Sekmai PS, Thoubal District, were arrested." The tweet was time stamped on 20 July. Before any verification with the police regarding the circumstances leading to this error or the incidents that might have influenced it, another ANI tweet was published, retracting the earlier statement and expressing regret.
By the time ANI realized the mistake and deleted the tweet, the damage had already been done. Hate-mongers seized the opportunity to exploit the situation, sharing the fake news far and wide, specifically highlighting the Muslim name mentioned in the tweet. This tactic had been previously used in a different incident where a Muslim was falsely accused of causing a train accident in Odisha, leading to widespread misinformation and societal tensions.
The viral nature of the false information reached even TV channels, who unwittingly propagated the baseless news.
It wasn't until 10.30 am on Friday, nearly 12 hours after the initial tweet, that ANI issued an apology and clarification for its grave mistake. Mohammed Zubair, a fact-checker and co-founder of AltNews, pointed out that had ANI acted immediately after realizing the error, the fake news might not have gone viral to such an extent.