On December 25, Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of Alt News and currently out on bail, came under scrutiny for targeting former athlete Anju Bobby George after she praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Zubair alleged that mainstream media failed to report that Anju had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2019. However, a closer examination reveals a series of inaccuracies in Zubair’s claims.
In a social media post, Zubair shared two screenshots from ANI, one from December 23, showcasing Anju’s praise for PM Modi, and another from July 2019, where ANI mistakenly claimed Anju had joined the BJP. Zubair, known for positioning himself as a ‘messiah’ of fact-checking, surprisingly failed to verify the accuracy of Anju’s alleged BJP membership.
Contrary to Zubair’s assertions, Anju Bobby George had attended an event on July 6, 2019, in the presence of BJP Karnataka President BS Yeddyurappa. ANI, on Twitter (then-Twitter), reported, “Anju Bobby George joins BJP in the presence of Karnataka BJP President BS Yeddyurappa.” However, Anju clarified that her presence at the event was a casual encounter with a family friend, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan.
Muraleedharan, speaking to the Indian Express, supported Anju’s statement, emphasising their long association and asserting that the event was about to begin when Anju was invited to the stage, purely as a respected athlete.
The controversy deepened as Karnataka BJP media convener S Shantaram contradicted Anju’s version, claiming that she had accepted the party flag on stage, signifying her joining the BJP. Anju vehemently denied the allegations, insisting that she had no intention of joining any political party and had only gone to meet the minister.
Adding to the confusion, Ankur Singh and X user Mr. Sinha, in response to Zubair’s post, criticised him for spreading fake news. They highlighted that Anju and the BJP had clarified the situation back in 2019, questioning Zubair’s failure to acknowledge the truth in subsequent years.
Why are you spreading Fake News even after 4 years?
She never joined BJP. Anju and BJP both had clarified the same day.
There were several fact checks too. But why will you show the truth? pic.twitter.com/5RDpBne1f3
— Ankur Singh (@iAnkurSingh) December 25, 2023
Even Maktoob Media, a media house often favored by Zubair, had fact-checked the claim of Anju’s BJP membership in 2019, concluding that the reports were false. This turn of events in 2023 serves as an ironic twist, as Maktoob Media’s past fact-check effectively contradicted Alt News’ co-founder.
Despite multiple fact-checks and criticisms, Mohammed Zubair did not rectify his false post, prompting further questions about his commitment to accurate reporting. The incident underscores the importance of thorough fact-checking in the age of digital misinformation.