Pakistan accuses India of defamation by running fake news propaganda

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On Friday, Pakistan accused neighbour nation India for funding a long running disinformation campaign against them and also declared that they will raise the matter in global forums.

While making its claim that India attempted to manipulate international bodies through fake news websites and organisations, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi cited a report by European non-government organisation EU DisinfoLab.

The report highlighted a network of hundreds of fake media outlets and organisations that is said to have pushed a pro-India agenda in the European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) bodies to discredit Pakistan in particular.

EU DisinfoLab did not detail any direct links between the alleged network and the Indian government.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said at a press conference, “Today, India is manipulating and misusing the international system for its own nefarious designs.” Also added that the Indian government was funding the network.

Qureshi called on the UN and UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to immediately investigate and de-list “10 fake NGOs created by India to defame Pakistan.”

He also asked the European Union Parliament to begin an investigation into what he termed to be the manipulation of the body and its legislative process by “fake organisations involved in anti-Pakistan propaganda under a fully funded disinformation and influence operation, run by India.”

All the accusations are rejected by New Delhi, saying it was Pakistan that was spreading disinformation.

Anurag Srivastava, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, said in a news conference, “As a responsible democracy, India does not practice disinformation.”

The EU DisinfoLab report also said that the Indian press agency Asian News International (ANI) was the only press agency to extensively cover material from the disinformation network.

Financial Express reported that, Qureshi accused ANI of amplifying propaganda against Pakistan, and he pointed out that the organisation had a partnership with Reuters, which, he said, was also being used to spread this information.

Reuters News, a unit of Thomson Reuters, has had a minority stake in ANI since two decades.

ANI editor Smita Prakash dismissed the allegation, saying in a Twitter post, “An attempt has been made by Pakistan and its proxies to hurt ANI’s credibility by hurling wild accusations of fake news.”

Reuters, in a statement responding to a request for comment, said it was “reviewing these allegations” in its capacity as a minority shareholder in ANI, but added that it has “no involvement” in ANI’s editorial operations.

“As is the case with all our editorial partners and suppliers, we review ANI’s raw, unedited video content shot within India, and exercise our own news judgment about what we distribute and publish,” the statement read.

UNHRC spokesman Rolando Gomez said the organisation would look into these specific allegations, and that it was aware a number of accredited groups were pursuing their own political agenda or those of governments.

Delphine Colard, a European Parliament spokeswoman, said they were not aware of such a request made by Pakistan, but added: “We take very seriously any effort to misrepresent the positions of the European Parliament or its elected members.”