Alt News co-founder and professional dog-whistler Mohammed Zubair recently appeared to further Chinese propaganda talking points and undermine the Indian government’s dismissal of Beijing’s claims on Xi Jinping-Modi’s informal meet on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit underway in South Africa.
On Friday (August 25), Zubair posted a tweet with a screenshot of the Embassy of China in India highlighting a statement where it claimed Chinese Premier Xi Jinping met PM Modi on the latter’s request. The Alt News cofounder, notorious for dog-whistling against those seeking to expose Islamists, also shared a tweet from ANI to raise aspersions on the Indian government’s dismissal of the Chinese claim that the Indian PM had requested a meeting with the Chinese Premier.
Zubair’s tweet indicates that he trusts the Embassy of China in India over the Indian government. He dragged ANI into the conversation in a deceitful attempt to lend credence to his position, questioning the Indian government’s assertion that the Chinese side had requested a meeting with PM Modi during the BRICS summit.
The Indian government had summarily dismissed the Chinese claim stating that there was a pending request from the Chinese side for a bilateral meeting between the two leaders. The Indian government’s position was reported not just by ANI but by several other media organisations and Defence beat journalists, which repudiated Chinese claims and added that China had first requested India for a meeting.
Breaking: Indian side dismisses Chinese claim on the Modi-Xi meet; Sources say, “there was a pending request from the Chinese side for a bilateral meeting”, adding, the 2 leaders had an “informal conversation” at the leaders lounge at the leaders lounge at the BRICS summit https://t.co/NtVbEiPamf
— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) August 25, 2023
NDTV reported the Indian government’s rejection of fake claims made by the Chinese side.
Many other news organisations also reported the dismissal by the Indian government.
Zubair’s inclination to trust a Chinese handout more than the Indian government’s statement comes at a time when there seems to be competition among Modi detractors to push Chinese propaganda and paint a picture of gloom and doom under the current dispensation. Another left-leaning propaganda portal, NewsClick, has recently come under the spotlight for allegedly receiving funds from Beijing to promote Chinese propaganda. The New York Times investigation recently found that an American businessman, Neville Roy Singham, had links with Chinese state machinery and had invested money in the Indian news portal NewsClick. The purported email correspondence between NewsClick Editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and ThoughtWorks founder Neville Roy Singham shone a light on the discussions that were underway to use NewsClick to show China in a positive light as regards its handling of the coronavirus crisis vis-a-vis India and the United States.
NewsClick and Alt News belong on the same side of the political spectrum, with their employees often using each other’s reports to attack the Modi government. Any punitive action against one attracts squeals of condemnation from the other, with allegations of suppression of Freedom of Speech loosely hurled to claim victimhood and mount pressure on the government.
Propaganda peddling, selective fact-checking, and dog whistling: The tainted legacy of Mohammed Zubair and Alt News
For Zubair, who came into the limelight after dog-whistling against Nupur Sharma by sharing her incomplete video from a TV debate during which she made remarks on Prophet Muhammad, ANI has been his new target, using spurious allegations to attack and discredit the news agency even as he remains selective in ‘fact-checking’ news that favours his agenda. Congress supporters and leaders have found in Zubair and Alt News entities that share a common goal of maligning the Centre and media agencies that depict truth as it is without using the left-liberal lens that shields Islamists and runs opposition-favouring propaganda while claiming to be independent.
Even though Alt News casts itself as a ‘fact-checking’ website, it has so far failed to publish a fact-check on Nupur Sharma’s remarks on Prophet Muhammad, MeToo allegations against another cofounder Pratik Sinha, and several other contentious issues that threaten to expose them as a propaganda website serving as an instrument of opposition parties in attacking the Centre while professing to be a conscientious ‘fact-checking’ portal. Not just propaganda, but Alt News and Mohammed Zubair have also been found peddling fake news on several occasions. An indicative and not exhaustive list of instances, when Zubair had spread fake news, could be read here.