Stop the Online Vilification of Rana Ayyub: NWMI

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) has expressed solidarity with journalist and author Rana Ayyub, after a tweet attributing a fake and controversial quote to her went viral and severely vilified her in the process. Though Ayyub is not new to such vilification and has been in the eye of the storm ever since here award winning book Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up, about the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 was published, this incident has rung alarm bells across civil society groups given how it makes journalists, particularly women, vulnerable to abuse.

Rana Ayub

In a strongly worded press release NWMI says, “Over the course of the past few days, starting with a parody account of Republic TV that attributed a fake tweet to Ayyub in which she purportedly defended child rapists and supposedly said that Muslims were not safe in India, this campaign has shown no sign of abating.” Though AltNews proved that the account was fake, it was too late, as by then the fake tweet and its image had been shared thousands of times on Facebook and WhatsApp along with a Hindi translation of the fake tweet that was posted on April 22.

NWMI fears for Ayyub’s safety given how despite the deletion of the fake tweet and account, other fake tweets have been circulating along with videos and content with Ayyub’s morphed face, with exhortations to gang-rape. “In a classic case of ‘doxing’, her address and personal number have been made public, making her vulnerable to further abuse that could also become dangerous in the real world,” says NWMI. The press release further states, “This concerted, malicious misrepresentation and open intimidation as well as incitement to violence has serious implications for Rana Ayyub and, indeed, all journalists. It cannot but have a very real chilling effect on free speech and opinion. It is also in contravention of all laws in India concerning violence against women.” NWMI calls out politicians including Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to “rein in their followers who harass, abuse and threaten in their names.” It lists the following two demands:

• The NWMI demands that the Cyber-Crime cell of the Delhi Police take immediate steps to ensure safety for Rana Ayyub, identify the source/s of the threats and take stringent action against them.
• The NWMI further demands that social media platforms like Twitter take steps to distinguish parody accounts from real ones and intervene when the platform is used for hate speech and threats of violence.

Meanwhile Reporters Without Borders has also come out in support of Ayyub saying, “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an unprecedented week-old hate campaign on social networks against Indian freelance journalist Rana Ayyub and calls on the government and the New Delhi police to do whatever is necessary to protect her.”



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