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IFCN rejects Fact Hunt based on personal social media activity of founders while ignores Altnews' founders' bias

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Summary

IFCN rejects Fact Hunt based on the personal social media activity of founders. However, Fact Hunt's founders' social media activity is no way different from Altnews' co-founders.

A few months back we had applied for the IFCN code of principles which was rejected last week citing violation of non-partisanship policy by founders. IFCN's external assessor Kanchan Kaur had initially suggested approving the application. Here is what she wrote in her initial assessment:

However, Kanchan Kaur changed her mind a few days later and rejected the application citing violation of the non-partisanship policy of IFCN by directors of Fact Hunt. She referred to a 2-year-old tweet of mine celebrating the victory of BJP in a state election. I clarified that the tweet was about the victory of a party for which I voted in the election. I have never been part of any political party (directly or indirectly) but of no use.

She further referred to a few tweets wishing to meet PM as a piece of evidence that Shashank Singh (Another co-founder of Fact Hunt) belongs to BJP. 

According to her, our application should be rejected because directors of Fact Hunt have endorsed a political party and continue to support it.

It is important to mention that Kanchan Kaur's stance changed after a co-founder of Altnews publicly accused Shashank of being an IT cell member of a political party which is not true.
The IFCN application remains private until it is verified and accepted. Then how the co-founder of Altnews got to know that we have applied to be part of IFCN? Does it show that he contacted Kanchan Kaur to influence her decision? It will probably remain unanswered. Another possibility is that IFCN shared our application to all its verified signatories which is highly unlikely.

The criteria 2b prevents organisation and employees from direct involvement in political parties and advocacy group and we are no way involved in any political activities.

However, it was still rejected based on a few old tweets. Here is what she wrote in section 2(b). Political endorsement by directors through personal accounts was the sole reason for rejection.

In my clarification, we wrote that as a citizen of the country, I do vote and have political preferences which I have shown in the past (before starting Fact Hunt) but that doesn't influence my work.

Now, if showing my personal political preference is a violation of non-partisanship policy, then we will adhere to it. I haven't tweeted in favour of any political party since starting Fact Hunt. I wrote to IFCN that Shashank Singh is ready to step down if required. However, Shashank is not doing anything that Md Zubair, the co-founder of Altnews is not doing already. We are going to prove it with evidence in this article.

Political preference of Altnews' co-founder Md. Zubair

The co-founder of Altnews, Md Zubair runs a Facebook page "Unofficial: Subramanian Swamy" where he regularly supports Aam Aadmi Party and mock/insult BJP.

Below screenshots prove that the page is managed by him.

Relevant Links: Tweet by Sam Jawed, Tweet by Md. Zubair, Report by First Post

Here are a few examples where he has supported AAP and mocked a particular ideology:

1. Openly celebrated AAP's victory in the recent assembly election in Delhi (2020). 

I had congratulated BJP when they emerged as a single largest party in the Karnataka assembly election in May 2018. Shashank had wished to meet PM Modi on 1st Jan 2019. IFCN used our tweets as a piece of evidence to show that we endorse a political party but ignores the social media post of Altnews' co-founder endorsing the Aam Aadmi Party.

2. Post insulting the PM and celebrating AAP's victory.

If Shashank's tweet in support the prime minister of the country violated the non-partisan policy of IFCN then how Altnews' co-founder post insulting the PM Modi after AAP's victory in the recently concluded Delhi election doesn't violate it?

3. Sharing unverified news against a political party 

Altnew's co-founder not only shares supportive tweets for AAP but regularly shares unverified news against BJP. On 9th Feb, he shared an unverified video to claim that EVMs were stolen by BJP. The claim was later marked as false by Vishwas News.

4. Md Zubair constantly runs propaganda against the ruling party and Indian police. On 30th January, he shared a picture to claim that the Delhi police were standing and watching the shooter during a protest in Delhi.

We had debunked this misinformation by analysing the video of the incident.

These are just a few examples. He constantly indulges in propaganda against right-wing and BJP. Many times he has abused the home minister of the country and constantly shares posts with confirmation bias against the current government.

Md Zubair is known for sharing sensational and politically motivated fake news against BJP and RSS. Earlier, he had shared an unverified report claiming that the BJP office's sewage was jammed with used condoms. We had debunked this fake news in 2018.

Fact Check: Was sewage of BJP's office jammed with used condoms as being claimed on social media

Not only this, Md Zubair had shared an unverified cartoon to falsely claim that  Rss had depicted Mahatma Gandhi as Ravana in its journal.

Did Rss really depict Mahatma Gandhi as Ravana in its journal as claimed by Alt News co-founder

These social media post clearly suggests that he influences his readers to support a particular party and runs propaganda against the ruling party. Now, our question to IFCN: "How Altnews is compliant to non-partisanship policy while Fact Hunt is not". Shashank Singh has not done anything that Md Zubair hasn't done. The only difference is they belong to different political ideologies. 

Pratik Sinha and his political preferences 

Pratik Sinha is the admin of a propaganda website Truth of Gujarat where he has constantly tried to prove that the train in Godhra automatically caught fire even though the trial court convicted 31 people and awarded the death penalty to 11 which was later changed to life sentence by Gujarat High court. If someone navigates through the website, it will become clear that every single article is against BJP, RSS and a particular ideology.

Pratik Sinha is also a member of Jan Sangarsh Manch, an organisation known for campaigning against India's prime minister Narendra Modi.

Pratik Sinha's mother, Nirjhari Sinha is Director of Alt News who has shared stages with an independent MLA Jignesh Mevani.

Nirjhari Sinha sharing the stage with MLA Jignesh Mevani during a politically motivated ‘Not in My Name’ rally

Last year, when a user called out Pratik Sinha for his hatred against BJP, he defended himself by saying that as a citizen of this country, he has the right to oppose any ideology. (When we gave the same argument to IFCN, they didn't entertain it)

Pratik Sinha then asks whether his political/ideological preference reflects in the way Altnews operates. Our answer is yes.

Founders political preferences are visible in Altnews' work

Here is a list that shows the bias in the work of Altnews

1. Altnews falsely accused PM Modi of giving a communal speech by cherry-picking one sentence from his speech. You can read our detailed report here.

AltNews falsely quoted PM Modi: PM has never said that more electricity was supplied during Eid than Diwali in U.P

2. Altnews falsely accused True Indology of lying by cropping out the caption and projecting an image of temple ruins as of Neolithic settlement in the BC era. You can read our detailed report here:

Alt News vs True Indology - Part 1: Pratik Sinha exposed himself while trying to expose True Indology

3. Altnews was caught misleading its followers by misquoting BJP and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prashad. They even fabricated a few lies to falsely prove that BJP is misleading the people on Rafale.

Fact Check: Did BJP actually mislead on Rafale or Altnews manufactured lies to defame BJP

And when we pointed out their mistake, they silently updated their article which is a clear violation of the IFCN code of principals.

Alt News failed to acknowledge our rebuttal, silently updated the article after our expose

4. Last year, Altnews had prematurely declares that no stones were thrown from inside the college during Vidyasagar violence. They updated the article after we pointed out but didn't bother inform their readers about the correction.

Fact Check: No stones were thrown from inside the campus during Vidyasagar college violence as claimed by AltNews

5. Altnews prematurely declares that PM Modi had quoted a satirical website. You can read our report here:

Fact Check: Did PM Modi quote a satirical website 'Faking News' to attack Omar Abdullah in Parliament?

Double Standard of IFCN?

With the above evidence, it is clear that either both Fact Hunt and Altnews' applications should be rejected or both should be accepted. 

Now, our only question to IFCN is "How Altnews founders don't violate non-partisan policy while Fact Hunt founders do"? Why there is a different yardstick to assess Fact Hunt and Altnews?

We had emailed all the details to IFCN to put forward our case but never received a reply.

Other verified Signatories violating IFCN's code of principal

However, on the other hand, the founding trustee of IndiaSpend, Praveen Chakravarty is Chairman Of Congress’ Data Analytics Department (Congress is a political party in India). Indiaspend is a sister organisation of Boomlive and Factcheker.in

In her assessment of Boomlive, Kanchan Kaur has written, "Though details of funding are not clearly defined, the signatory makes it very clear that it is part of a private network" but how did she fail to check whether that private network has any link with a political party or not?

Boomlive describes right-leaning magazines and portal as propaganda websites. In one of their article, they have described Swarajya and OpIndia as propaganda websites. Using such derogatory terms for any publication is against the code of principals of IFCN.

Factcheker.in, another sister organisation of India Spend and Boomlive called PM Modi a liar by using older data released by the govt. Even after the clarification by Ministry of Civil Aviation, they haven't updated their article. Instead, they featured it in the top 10 lies of 2018

Our only point is why there is a different set of standards for Fact Hunt and Altnews, Boom live or FactChecker.in? 

Note: You can reach out to us at support[at]facthunt.co.in if you find any issue with our articles.


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