The case of action against The Wire is strange. Might say that even The Wire’s report on meta was weird. But the media organization admitted its mistake, also apologized and then withdrew those stories. The Wire also filed a case against Devesh Kumar, the researcher who prepared the report and allegedly tampered with the evidence. Then the question is, when the media institute has accepted its mistake, then why did the police raid all of a sudden? Why were devices like mobiles, iPads, laptops of The Wire editors confiscated? Have the rules been followed for this? The question is also that why were the equipment of the accused who helped in preparing the report and tampered with the evidence were not confiscated?
The confiscated devices like mobiles, iPads, laptops of the editors of The Wire do not threaten to reveal the identities of their sources? Will the investigative journalism of news websites and their reports not be affected? This question is because The Wire is part of the consortium that published investigation reports into cases like Pegasus. Pegasus is a military-grade snooping software allegedly used by the government to spy on opponents.
In fact, these questions are being raised by experts in legal matters and technical matters after the police action on The Wire. Know the whole matter before knowing what the experts are raising.
Amit Malviya on Friday submitted a complaint against The Wire, Varadarajan and the editors – Siddharth Bhatia, Venu and Janhvi Sen – to the Special Commissioner of Police (Crime). After this, on Saturday, those journalists were accused of fraud, forgery and publishing ‘fake reports’. Apart from this, charges like defamation, criminal conspiracy have also been leveled. The raid was also conducted on Monday.
This is after The Wire has taken down that report related to tech company Meta from its website. Many questions were raised on that report. The Wire filed a police complaint on 29 October against its researcher Devesh Kumar, alleging that he ‘fabricated and supplied documents, emails and other material such as videos to damage The Wire and its reputation. did’.
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Malviya said The Wire published the follow-up reports, despite META’s categorical denial that the report had cited forged documents. Following this, the Delhi Police conducted searches on the homes, offices and equipment of The Wire’s founding editors and senior editors on October 31.
However, legal experts have said on this action that the Delhi Police hastened the action. This is highly unpredictable and is contrary to official action in other similar cases.
Online news website Scroll has reported based on legal experts. This confiscation action was taken under a notice sent under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This section allows the police to issue summons to any person to produce material necessary for investigation.
Alam said that since The Wire has admitted a mistake, the explanation already given by him can be examined. He said, ‘Without doing anything on the explanation, you bypass it for no apparent reason and reach out to see all the devices.’
The lawyers also questioned why the police did not seize the equipment of Devesh Kumar, whom The Wire alleges had tampered with the material on which these articles were based.
Lawyer Vrinda Grover asked why Malviya did not name Devesh Kumar in his complaint while The Wire is “telling that he has been misled and deceived”. He asked, ‘How did the crime branch not issue a notice to Kumar?’
The lawyers also criticized the confiscation of equipment as per the notice of Section 91. The notice under this section has to state what documents and equipment are required.
Grover said it is even more important in the case of journalists. “Since their tools are supposed to collect a lot of sensitive data and material relating to a large number of reports, state agencies are interested in accessing such material,” he said.
In addition, the police should have given the ‘hash value’ of the devices to their owners after seizing computers, iPads and phones. Hash value is a unique number used to ensure that a device and its data are not tampered with. “If the electronic devices are confiscated by the police without giving the hash value, then the electronic data and devices in the possession of the police can be tampered with and manipulated,” Grover said.
“It is very interesting that Delhi Police comes with a large number of policemen, but not with a technical expert to calculate and give the hash value,” he said.
He raised the question that Delhi Police had not conducted such investigation in cases like Nupur Sharma, who was associated with BJP. Sharma had allegedly made religiously inflammatory remarks in May. “When it comes to people like Mohammad Zubair or Varadarajan, the promptness with which the police act only gives the impression that there is discrimination,” Ghosh said. In May, Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, was asked to hand over his electronic devices. His was used to make a tweet allegedly hurting religious sentiments.