Kolkata: Fake news, seems to be the order of the day or more precisely a weapon or a tool used for political gains.
On the day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to address a rally in United Arab Emirate (UAE), a story containing a video clip went viral on India’s mainstream media claiming that Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi had chanted ‘Jai Siya Ram’, just ahead of the PM Modi delivering his speech in UAE. Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is also the deputy supreme commander of UAE Armed Forces.
The false story seems to be a carefully designed attempt by some groups with vested interest to spread false propaganda and gain political mileage. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi never attended any such religious gathering organized by the Hindu community settled there. The video is almost two years old and the person in the video is actually Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a UAE-based columnist, and commentator on Arab affairs. He had said ‘Jai Siya Ram’ while addressing a Hindu spiritual programme conducted by the guru Morari Bapu in Abu Dhabi in September 2016.
Some mainstream news channels who have become habitual circulator of such fake news in recent time are Times Now and Zee News. But surprisingly ABP Ananda, also fell for it.
Within few hours after the misleading video went viral on social media especially on Twitter, many users were seen retweeting and hailing Modi as a great leader of the masses. A user with the handle @sona2905, for instance, said: “If you understand geopolitics, you know what this means and where [Indian] PM Modi stands.”
Another user, with the handle @nandlala559, offered his “heartiest congratulations to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince for his valuable speech” and said: “Really Good Job for PM MODIJI/INDIA”.
The tweet was retweeted more than thousand times. This viral news compelled UAE Embassy in New Delhi to issue a clarification stating that the it was a fake news.
The most disturbing thing about posting this fake video is that the top media houses had not bothered to cross-check before uploading the video. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi was the chief guest who attended the 2017 Republic Day parade. And in 2016 he visited our country as a state guest.
The top media houses failed to distinguish between the crown prince and a UAE journalist, forcing many to question if it was done by choice or was it a deliberate propaganda tool to help someone get political mileage?
When tracked online, the digital footprints of the viral videos show a definite pattern. All the stories were uploaded between a similar time frame: just ahead of PM’s arrival in UAE.
The deliberate attempt of circulating and recirculating a fake video multiple of times in social media by top media houses is an indication of a structured design and objective of spreading the malicious and fake news that feeds on unsuspecting news consumers.
PM Modi laid the foundation stone of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi on a land donated by Shaikh Mohammad. This act reveals a range of pluralism in terms of religion, language, ethnicity, food shown by the UAE government.