Times Now on Monday night in an "exclusive" show claimed that activists Teesta Setalvad and Zia Nomani were "recorded secretly" talking about the Popular Front of India (PFI). The recording which Times Now claimed was a "secret tape" and "accessed by security agencies" is in fact a publicly available webinar, broadcasted live on Facebook where the activists criticise PFI.
BOOM found the link to the original webinar aired on Facebook and spoke to the organisers Pedestrian Pictures, who shared with the open registration link and said there was nothing secret about the webinar. The link to the webinar is still available on Facebook and is publicly accessible.
Times Now in its show raised questions about the the 'duplicity' of the activists for privately criticising PFI and defending Umar Khalid when the Delhi Police have linked Khalid for allegedly raising funds from PFI to finance unrest in the capital.
The show hosted by Rahul Shivshankar, Editor-In-Chief of Times Now was aired on Monday, a few hours after a special court remanded the United Against Hate leader, Khalid to 10 days police custody. Delhi police arrested Khalid late on September 13, 2020, for allegedly masterminding the February communal violence in North-East Delhi that resulted in the deaths of at least 53 people and left hundreds injured.
The debate displayed several tickers like 'Sensational Secret Recording Accessed', and #UmarLobbySecretTape. During the show anchor Shivshankar while showing the clips from the webinar, claims it was a "private conversation" and further adds that the video was "leaked to intelligence agencies" after which the the channel exclusively "accessed the video".
The channel also stamped the clipping aired as 'TAPE ACCESSED BY SECURITY AGENCIES'. Please see highlight above.
In the clip broadcasted by Times Now, one can hear Zia Nomani, member of Swaraj India political party, and journalist and activist Teesta Setalvad criticising PFI. The clip starts with Nomani bringing up the role PFI is playing in Bangalore and says, "I would like to bring to your notice the rise of another right-wing organisation that is working with Muslims here in Bangalore. I am sure you all must be very concerned about what is happening in Bangalore and the narrative that is being set due to the unfortunate incidents. But what we are missing is the right wing rise of the SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India) and the PFI..."
Setalvad responds to Nomani's point and says, "I admire your honesty and integrity but I only want to add two points...Whenever there is such a tendency developing among Muslim community, it is not countered and that is wrong. I will only say this much for now that SDPI and PFI remain problematic for people like us – Communalism Combats, CJP, Sabrang India and we have taken a public stand not to share a platform with them. People who consider themselves Left, should also stand against them..."
#Exclusive | Hear Umar Khalid backer's admission. Shocking secret admission out; Teesta, Left lobby knows 'truth.'— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) September 14, 2020
The #UmarLobbySecretTape ACCESSED by TIMES NOW. | INDIA UPFRONT with Rahul Shivshankar pic.twitter.com/Szumx8GkN1
Click here to view an archive.
BOOM found that the clip played by Times Now was no 'secret' conversation or recording, and is in fact a public webinar broadcasted live on Facebook by Pedestrian Pictures on August 16, 2020. The webinar and link to the Facebook Live is still available for public viewing.
The clip aired by Times Now is part of a three-hour long discussion titled, "Reclaiming Freedom of Speech and Liberty in Times of Intensified State Aggression and Repression." The webinar was hosted by Pedestrain Pictures, a media activism group which pre dominantly makes documentaries and short films about various issues and saw participation from activists like Muskan Raj, Abdul Aziz, KP Sasi Advocate S Balan in addition to Setalvad and Nomani.
Nomani and Setalvad's discussion can be heard from the timestamp 2.40.52 to 2:49:45 minutes. Below is the Facebook live link to the same webinar.
BOOM contacted Pradeep K P, co-founder of Pedestrian Pictures who denied Times Now's claim that the conversation was private. "The clip is from a August 16, 2020 program and one of the people spoke about the PFI to which Teesta responded," he said. Pradeep explained that the webinar was not private and in fact the registration link was put on Facebook for anyone to join. "We aired the same on Facebook and anyone could have joined live on Facebook. We also sent out a public invitation for people to join, which can be seen on the Facebook page."
One can view the registration put out on Facebook below
BOOM also contacted Teesta Setalvad who denied that the webinar was secret in any manner. "The host of the show - Deepu (Pradeep) is a filmmaker and had invited some activists to speak. Nomani from Swaraj India was present and brought up the role of PFI while talking about the Banglore violence. When he was talking I said that it is very important that this is said because when we are taking on a bigger evil of the RSS and the Hindutva communalism, we have to also notice this radicalisation that is happening in some groups, not in all groups and we must speak about it," said Setalvad.
Setalvad also stated that she has previously also spoken out against the PFI and responding to Shivshakar's claim on defending Khalid's alleged links to PFI, she added, "This is completely unfair because who knows, is RSS (Rahul Shivshankar) an investigating agency? If consistently you look at Khalid's public programs, his public speeches, he's talking about the Indian constitution, I don't believe he is associated with the PFI. This is an attempt by this channel to play a witch hunt on Khalid, that's all I can say."
Swaraj India took to Twitter to dismiss the claim made by Times Now and said, "Sorry to disappoint you @TimesNow, your super exclusive #UmarLobbySecretTape is actually part of a public conversation"
Sorry to disappoint you @TimesNow, your super exclusive #UmarLobbySecretTape is actually part of a public conversation— Swaraj India (@_SwarajIndia) September 14, 2020
➡️ NOTHNG PRIVATE: The tape you claimed was accessed by 'Security Agencies' was public & broadcasted Live on Facebook on 16 Aug
BOOM reached out to Khalid's lawyer for a response, the article will be updated upon a response.
Claim Review : Secret recording shows Teesta Setalvad and activists calling PFI dangerous
Claimed By : Times Now
Fact Check : False