Journalist Named in Facebook’s Ankhi Das complaint Files Counter FIR

In his FIR, Awesh Tiwari said that he was being intimidated and prevented from doing his job as a journalist by Das, and he has refused her allegations.

ankhi das fir
Courtesy: Facebook, Twitter

On August 17, Ankhi Das, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, India, South & Central Asia, filed a complaint at the Delhi police cyber cell against alleged violent threats. In response, journalist Awesh Tiwari has filed an FIR with the Raipur Police on a number of charges under the IPC, including outraging religious feelings and incitement to violence. 

Both of these FIRs have come in the aftermath of a Wall Street Journal report which showed that Ankhi Das had protected at least three BJP politicians from hate speech community guidelines for their facebook posts, which included incitement of violence and derogatory posts about Muslims. After that, her ties to the BJP were explored, revealing that her sister is a long-time member of RSS-affiliated organizations, and that Ankhi Das had led a partnership between Facebook and the Election Commission.

OpIndia was the first to access the complaint which the site posted in an article titled “After Rahul Gandhi attacks Facebook India’s Ankhi Das, she receives a threat to life, police complaint filed”. 

OpIndia is internationally well known to be a right-wing propaganda site, with Wikipedia blacklisting it, IFCN rejecting its application to be recognized as a fact-checker due to the number of fake news it has published, and the founder calling it a ‘blind mouthpiece’ of the BJP after he left the organization. It is interesting then, that Das decided to give access to her complaint to OpIndia. The headline itself gives a hint to the article, as it falsely alleges that Rahul Gandhi attacked Ankhi Das. In reality, he tweeted the article, critiquing Facebook and RSS-BJP. 

 

In her complaint, Ankhi Das cited violent threats to her life and body, sexually coloured remarks, and defamation, giving evidence of two tweets by anonymous accounts, two Facebook posts by Himanshu Deshmukh and Awesh Tiwari, and tweets by three accounts which she called defamatory and accused of circulating her picture. 

While the entire complaint has been attached in the article, the annexures in which screenshots for these tweets and posts were attached, have not been included in the article. When we went to find the posts, we found that one of the alleged death threats was a tweet which said ‘Ankhi Das Murdabad’. ‘Murdabad’ is a common term which does not literally mean that someone should die, but rather denotes rejection, and is commonly used in order to reject a public figure.

The second tweet did not exist, which can either mean that the link was faulty or the tweet had been deleted. The alleged death threat by Himanshu Deshmukh was not available as his posts are only visible to friends. The post by Awesh Tiwari which she has linked can be seen below.

Awesh Tiwari post about Ankhi Das
Courtesy: Facebook


The post, originally in Hindi has been auto-translated here by Facebook and it is clear that it does not contain any threats but is rather a report of all known facts regarding Das’s links with the BJP. In the comments as well, he has not made any threats to Ankhi Das, except to say to a friend that they will try to find out her links with the Sangh Parivar and post about it soon. 

Then she alleged circulation of her photo along with defamatory comments. The first status she mentioned was by an account that has been deleted. The second tweet she mentioned was by Saket Gokhale, which can be seen below.

He based his tweet on a public post made by the WOSY page, a screenshot of which he had attached. The picture he used was already in the public domain as well. Finally, the third post she mentioned also attached a picture of her already existing in the public domain along with calling her a ‘BJP-agent’ and said that she was responsible for spreading hate between Hindus and Muslims during elections. This is based on the documented fact of a partnership between Facebook and the Election Commission, with no regulation of political advertisements on Facebook. 

It seems that most of the allegations in the Ankhi Das’s complaint are not entirely accurate, and it is alarming seeing as the Delhi police have in the past played a huge role in the repression of students, activists, and Muslims. 

One of the accused in Das’s complaint, Awesh Tiwari, state bureau chief of Hindi news channel Swaraj Express, categorically refused ever having interacted with Ankhi Das, and filed an FIR against Ankhi Das with the Raipur Police, saying that he was being intimidated and prevented from doing his job as a journalist. He also reported being censored by Facebook previously for his posts that were critical of the government, including one regarding Pulwama and one regarding tribal agitations in Bhilai. 

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