A fake Twitter account using the alias Neha Joshi claimed on January 26 that she was attacked by protesting farmers while reporting on the protest in Delhi. This tweet went viral resulting in several identical tweets by unknown Twitter handles targeting the farmers and questioning the motives behind their march. BOOM investigated the handle and found it to be fake.
BOOM found that the account impersonated the identities of two individuals by using the photo of Qurat Ul Ain Iqrar, ex journalist from Pakistan and the identity of an independent anchor, Neha Joshi, from Kapurthala in Punjab. Both the women confirmed to BOOM that the account is not owned by them and someone else was using their details to spread misinformation.
On January 26, Delhi saw violent clashes between protesting farmers and police with a certain section of the farmers also breaching the Red Fort and hoisting a Sikh religious flag. The violence which left one farmer dead and several Delhi police personnel injured caused an outrage and a spurt in misinformation including that the farmers hoisted a Khalistani flag at Red Fort. BOOM debunked the same here.
The same day of the violence, a Twitter account by the name of Neha Joshi tweeted in Hindi that she was a journalist covering the protests on ground and was attacked by the protesting farmers. The account alleged that the farmers had misbehaved with her, attempted to run over her with a tractor and snatched and attempted to break her channel's mic.
The tweet translates to, "The destruction done by these alleged farmers that I witnessed today was something that I have never seen before in my career. Today they attempted to run their tractor over me and attack me withe their swords. They misbehaved and tried to harass me. They tried to snatch my mic and break it. Is this a farmers organisation or some other organisation?"
(Original in Hindi - आज रिपोर्टिंग करते समय इन तथाकथित किसानों का जो तांडव देखा वो अपने पत्रकारिता करियर में कभी नहीं देखा। आज इन्होंने ने मुझपर भी ट्रैक्टर चढ़ाने और तलवार से हमले की कोशिश की। अश्लील हरकतें और बदसलूकी की गयी । माईक को छीनकर तोङने कि कोशिश की। ये किसान संगठन है या कोई और संगठन?)
BOOM was first alerted to the account after a screenshot of several tweets with the same text went viral. Nearly eight accounts copy pasted the same accusation and tweeted exact same sentences, all alleging that farmers had attacked and misbehaved with them while they were reporting on the situation from Delhi.
The account of Neha Joshi received the most interaction with 5200 retweets, 17500 likes, 753 comments and is pinned on the account.
We checked the bio and found the account was created recently in October 2020 and describes itself as a 'News personality' who formerly worked for ABP News and Zee News.
The account which now has the handle '@news4India' earlier went by '@Nehajoshinews' when it posted the viral tweet with the allegation against the farmers. The account when it tweeted the viral post, also had a different profile picture. View an archive of the account here
A search for the previous handle - '@nehajoshinews and a line from the viral tweet - आज रिपोर्टिंग करते' showed the photo used earlier. A reverse image search on this led us to results identifying her as Dr Fiza Akbar Khan, a Pakistani journalist and anchor at Bol News.
See below :
We further did a Google reverse image search on the new display picture used by the account and results indicated the photo belonged to a Pakistani journalist - Qurat-ul-ain Iqrar. A Facebook search for the name showed an unverified page from 2014 run by ExpressNews TV with the same photo.
We contacted Iqrar who said the account named Neha Joshi had misused her photo and that the said Twitter account was not hers and that she had never tweeted about the farmer's protest in India. Iqrar said, "I rarely tweet about global political issues and have in fact quit journalism. I am now a homemaker and the said photo is from a few years ago when I was with Express News."
Iqrar also tweeted calling out the fake account.
We then scanned through the tweets of the account and found that while it was created in October 2020, it started tweeting only on January 8, 2021. None of the tweets were about a story or show done by the person who described herself as a journalist but most tweets supported the construction of the Ram temple and others were against Congress, Umar Khalid and the Muslim community.
ACCOUNT IMPERSONATES A FREELANCER ANCHOR
Journalists at Zee News and ABP News denied that a Neha Joshi was on ground covering the farmer protest. We found that a person with the said name worked with Zee Punjabi till 2014 as an anchor, but was no longer associated with the channel. We contacted Neha Joshi who was shocked at the tweet and confirmed that the account did not belong to her.
Joshi, speaking to BOOM, said, "That Twitter account is not mine. I quit mainstream journalism three to four years ago and now do freelance assignments as an anchor for private channels." When asked whether she ever worked with Zee News or News4India, Joshi confirmed and said, "I worked with Zee Punjabi and News4India for a brief period in 2014 and 2015 respectively but only as an anchor. I have never been a ground reporter and I also moved from Delhi in 2013 and now I am based in Kapurthala in Punjab."
We found Joshi's Facebook profile and found that she appears as an anchor for feature shows on movies and Bollywood music. Joshi confirmed this and said, "I am not covering the farmers protest and was not even in Delhi on January 26, the day of the violence. I majorly focus on my teaching job and taking care of my daughter. Why would someone go through my career details and create such a fake profile?"
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?