On March 6, 2020 several right-wing Twitter users in India tweeted screenshots of a tweet that called for 'butchering Hindus', from an account of an individual who claimed to be a correspondent with Al Jazeera and also claimed to have worked with The Wire, in the past.
BOOM investigated the claim and found the account to be spurious with both organisations outrightly rejecting the claim that the person behind the account was in any way connected to them.
Distancing itself from the account, the organisation released a strongly-worded statement late Friday.
"Al Jazeera Media Network condemns in the strongest terms the vicious attempts to defame the Network as propagating anti-Indian and anti-Hindu sentiments," it said.
"Tweets are being circulated from a twitter handle @dilawarshaikh_. This is a spurious account and has no relation or affiliation to Al Jazeera. The Network doesn't have any journalist by the name of Dilawar Shaikh.," it further said. (Click here to view the full statement)
Al Jazeera condemns vicious attempts to defame the Network as propagating anti-Indian and anti-Hindu sentiments. https://t.co/UgUBuRtFEP— Al Jazeera PR (@AlJazeera) March 6, 2020
Siddharth Vardarajan, founding editor of The Wire, also replied to a tweet and confirmed that no one by the name Dilawar Shaikh had ever worked for the organisation.
No one of this name has ever worked at The Wire.— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) March 6, 2020
"No one called Dilawar Shaikh or anyone remotely resembling his posted photograph has ever worked for The Wire," Siddharth Vardarajan told BOOM, when we contacted him separately.
ANATOMY OF A CON
The account @dilawarshaikh_ that made the provocative remark has now been deactivated. On February 25, 2020 in a reply to another thread, the account had replied. But it was only on March 6 when the account @dilawarshaikh_ retweeted its own reply that it got attention of the Indian right-wing on Twitter.
Screenshots of the tweet were amplified by accounts that are responsible for making things go viral in India.
"Massacre those who insult #Islam"— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) March 6, 2020
Meet @DilawarShaikh_ "correspondent of @AlJazeera" in Cardiff, Wales and is "inspired by @RanaAyyub."
Shaikh wants to "start butchering #Hindus," bcoz "only then they [Hindus] will learn a lesson."
His account has been deactivated pic.twitter.com/eaz2S5A0h0
Correspondent at @AlJazeera_World @AlJazeera & inspired by Rana ... thinks hindu call girls are the best.... what else do you expect from a channel that is a veritable arm of ISIS & Al Qaeda? pic.twitter.com/H0d5w1vroK— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) March 6, 2020
A basic search for @dilawarshaikh_ on Twitter shows multiple tweets from outraged users calling for punitive action against the account. (Click here)
The account @dilawarshaikh_ no longer exists but BOOM was able to retrieve a cache of the account from Google. (Click here to view an archive)
The cached version of the account, which appears to have been captured on February 26, 2020, showed it was set up in September 2013 yet the bio did not mention having worked at Al Jazeera or The Wire.
A scan of the profile shows the account was actively retweeting anti-Muslim and anti-liberal and pro-Hindu tweets, before it was deactivated.
In one of the screenshots about the account tweeted by the handle @desimojito, the bio of the spurious account mentioned that it was 'inspired by Rana Ayyub' yet BOOM found tweets where the account was retweeting offensive replies to the journalist.
The account also retweeted a tweet that falsely claimed Rana Ayyub had tried to pass of an old video from Bihar showing vandalism of a mosque as a recent incident during the Delhi riots. BOOM has already investigated that claim by visiting the site in Delhi and found that the video Ayyub tweeted was in fact recent. (Video Of Mosque Vandalised In Delhi's Ashok Nagar Is Not Fake News)
The spurious account also retweeted Mohammed Zubair, one of the co-founders of fact-checking website Alt News, but the tweet was about a story that essentially fact-checked the left and exonerated pro-Citizenship Amendment Act supporters.
While we were not able to locate the account's profile image through a reverse image search our analysis reveals that the account made false claims of being an employee of Al Jazeera and The Wire. The pattern of tweets and retweets suggest the individual behind the account is pro-right leaning and does not appear to be a Muslim.
(Updates to add Abhijit Iyer Mitra's tweet and date of Google's cache)
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