New Delhi: In yet another instance of genuine news being termed as ‘fake’ by the Central government’s fact-check wing, the PIB Fact Check claimed that a genuine recruitment notice issued by the Intelligence Bureau was incorrect – only to delete the tweet after the IB confirmed in writing that it was not false news.
The Publication Division of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), in a tweet on December 17, pointed out the incorrect ‘fact-check’ done a day earlier by the Ministry’s unit under the Press Information Bureau (PIB) that verifies government-related news.
Citing Employment News, the Centre’s weekly job journal issued by the Ministry, the Publication Division stated, “Attention is drawn to the action taken by the PIB Fact Check Unit on December 16, 2020, whereby the advertisement of Intelligence Bureau (Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India) appearing on pages 6 and 7 of Employment News scheduled to be released on December 19, 2020 has been stamped as ‘fake’. The Intelligence Bureau has confirmed in writing that the advertisement is genuine.”
Important notice regarding an advertisement of MHA being published in Employment News. pic.twitter.com/s5d3RMrQoV
— Publications Division (@DPD_India) December 17, 2020
After this, the PIB Fact Check Unit deleted the tweet.
The Fact Check Unit was set up in November last year by the Narendra Modi government to “counter misinformation on government policies/schemes.” Its Twitter handle has a telephone number and an email address which can be contacted if anyobdy suspects a government related news to be fake. Aside from having 171,000 followers, it is tracked by all the PIB state units, Doordarshan News, various Central ministries and even the Prime Minister’s Office.
Though I&B minister Prakash Javadekar had termed ‘fake news’ as more dangerous than ‘paid news’ on a couple of occasions, several of the PIB’s ‘fact-checks’ have been termed incorrect by independent fact checking websites like Alt News.
In a report this past June, Alt News had shown that three of the four ‘fact checks’ by the PIB Unit on the deaths of migrant labourers travelling in Shramik special trains that were run by the government after the sudden national lockdown fiasco were unsubstantiated.
The report said:
“Recently, the fact-checking wing of Press Information Bureau (PIB) posted multiple tweets declaring news reports on deaths of migrant workers in Shramik trains as false. PIB claimed that the deceased persons were either suffering from pre-existing medical conditions or had recently undergone treatment. But the outlet did not provide any medical reports to support its claim. The deaths of four such labourers were claimed to have been caused by long-term illness. However, the family of the deceased persons have different accounts to us than the one reported by the PIB.”
In yet another report, Alt News pointed out that the PIB Fact Check Unit incorrectly declared an advisory of the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force on Chinese app as ‘fake news’.
This past May, the Ministry’s Fact Check Unit had tweeted that a report published in The Wire was “factually incorrect”, and used the hashtag #fakenews to disseminate it on social media. The news report was about the Dhaman-1 ventilators, manufactured by the company Jyoti CNC. The Wire‘s report dealt with the bonhomie between Modi, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani and the influential diamantaire Rameshkumar Virani, who has stakes in Jyoti CNC, and reported on the concerns of doctors who were using the machines.
However, the PIB Fact Check claimed that the story was “misreported” because the Gujarat government did not purchase the ventilators, but had received it as a donation from Jyoti CNC. In fact, The Wire‘s report did not make this claim at all.