The Indigenous Tribal Leaders 'Forum (ITLF), a conglomerate of several tribal groups in Manipur distanced itself from a press release claiming that the forum extended an apology to the Kuki people for "misguidance and conflict with Meitei people," and called the statement fake.
The press release went viral on social media and was published by wire agency Asian News International (ANI) whose story was republished by several other news organisations. ANI later deleted their article and issued a correction.
Manipur has been gripped by ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities since early May this year. At least 142 people have died since the violence broke out with most deaths recorded in Imphal West, Imphal East and Churachandpur districts, the state government told the Supreme Court in a report according to the Indian Express.
The fake press release printed on the letterhead of ITLF reads, "The Indigenous Tribal Leader Forum, a leading organisation committed to the welfare and unity of indigenous communities, acknowledges and deeply regrets the misguided actions that resulted in brainwashing and involvement of innocent Kuki Zo people in the unfortunate conflict with the Meitei people in Manipur".
A Facebook post with the fake statement can be seen below.
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The statement was picked by ANI which published an article titled, "Manipur violence: Indigenous Tribal Leader Forum extends apology to Kuki Zo people for "misguidance, conflict with Meitei people""
The same was republished by several news outlets including Times Of India and India Today North East.
ITLF tweeted on July 12, 2023, clarifying that the statement is fake and called out media outlets that had published the letter as genuine. The tweet by ITLF reads, "Another proof of Meitei miscreants misusing & altering ITLF press releases. Once again, we urge everyone, especially state & national media to authenticate from our website before publishing."
BOOM reached out to Ishaan Prakash, Editor, ANI Live Services to find out why the article had been taken down. Prakash shared with us the tweet link to ANI Digital's correction on the story.
Later, ANI Digital tweeted that the story had been taken down saying the source of the press release was questionable.
The tweet stated, "#CORRECTION | An ANI story, "Manipur violence: Indigenous Tribal Leader Forum extends apology to Kuki Zo people for "misguidance, conflict with Meitei people" has been retracted as the source of the press release is questionable. Error regretted."
BOOM reached out to ITLF via email who denied releasing the viral letter and stated that it was fake.
"It seems the fake PR was published last night. We only get to know by this morning. ITLF official Press Releases are posted in our website http://itlfmediacell.com and in our social media accounts. The last Press Releases that we published was on 8th of July, so it was not a release by us," ITLF Media Cell told BOOM.
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