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New Delhi: Imphal-based independent news website The Frontier Manipur (TFM), has said it had come under “attack” last week, carried out either through a “fictitious” character or “individuals hired by vested interests” to disrupt its journalistic work.
A vocal critic of the BJP-led government in the state, Kishorechandra Wangkhem, is a journalist associated with TFM. Ever since Wangkhem criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the RSS and state chief minister N. Biren Singh in 2018, he has been in and out of jail on flimsy charges, including under the National Security Act recently for stating on social media that science and not cow urine has the cure for COVID-19.
In January, the executive editor of TFM, Paojel Chaoba, and TFM editor Dhiren Sadokpam were detained overnight for an article which was published by other news organisations too. According to a Manipur Police statement then, a case was filed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA – and Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code against “the editors of the Facebook page of the news portal” along with the author of the article, “for attempting to bring hatred/contempt/disaffection against government; criminal conspiracy and statements conducting to public mischief with common intention by being sympathiser of unlawful organisation”.
Speaking to The Wire about the latest incident, Chaoba said, “The website became inaccessible around 9 pm on August 5. Since then, our technical team was trying to identify any glitch that could have led to the reader inconvenience but was completely clueless for about 24 hours or so. We lost over two days before we could access the site. We found out that it was apparently due to a copyright complaint filed by one Peter Lawel with a Dubai address claiming that a story I had filed in Imphal for the news portal in November 2020 (with the headline “Lamjinga group PREs seal three offices at RIMS road”) to be his original story, published in one platform named newspressreader.com. But what gave away that it was a bogus claim, done only to hamper our work, was that the date of the incident based on which the report was written by me then (November 9, 2020) was shown two days earlier in that platform and the story also had the TFM byline.”
The website is now partially restored.
The takedown complaint on the story was filed on July 22 by newspressreader.com under the US copyright law, Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, with TFM’s Bangalore-based service provider
Chaoba said, “While the service provider, on being contacted, said it had sent a mail in that regard to us for resolution, it didn’t reach us, leaving us wondering why.”
The news site, in a report published on August 7 about the incident, said, “TFM have strong reasons to believe that there are ‘proxies’ or fictitious characters generated or individuals hired by vested interests with the sole intention of causing harm to the daily activities of the online news portal.”
The executive editor of the portal said, “We are aware that in this digital age, digital manipulation and fudging facts is nothing new. But to alter a date of publication of a story on a news website and to then to claim copyright over it and target the same website appears to be a first of a kind instance, at least in Manipur. This sinister design is expected to be a new challenge for emerging digital media outlets.”