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How Times of India Retracted its Fact-Check ‘Debunking’ Congress’ Accusation on PM Modi Shooting Film Post Pulwama Attack

ToI based its initial verdict on anonymous "government sources".

“After Alt News fact-checked the claims around Narendra Modi’s whereabouts on the day the Pulwama terror attack happened, the Times of India has rolled back their fact-check terming it to be ‘premature’. They’ve deleted their original tweet which was retweeted more than 6000 times,” announced Pratik Sinha, the founder of Alt News, on Twitter.

Sinha’s and Arjun Sidharth’s story titled, “Fact-check: Rahul Gandhi and BJP’s claim about PM’s whereabouts after Pulwama terror attack,” provided an in-depth look into the what was claimed by Congress President Rahul Gandhi and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Post the Pulwama attack where around 40 CRPF jawans were killed in a suicide bombing, both PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have been accused of continuing with campaigning for the upcoming Lok Sabha Polls, instead of addressing the situation in Kashmir. Rahul Gandhi had claimed on Twitter that three hours after news of the martyrdom of the 40 jawans in Pulwama, PM Modi was shooting for a film. He said that amid a sea of sorrow in the country and the homes of the martyrs, Modi was engaged in a photo shoot.

The Times of India, post this, had published a piece titled, “Fake: Congress makes false allegations of PM Modi shooting for film at Corbett 3 hours after Pulwama attack.”

In its “fact-check” report, ToI based its initial verdict on, among other things, “government sources”. “Modi did a short shoot for tourism promotion and climate change awareness with Discovery and was heading to Rudrapur for a public meeting. As the news of the attack started trickling in around 4 pm, he was making his way from Corbet to Rudrapur,” these sources said.

“Cutting short his trip, Modi flew back to Delhi from Bareilly airport within hours from the news of the terror attack,” read the report, adding bits and pieces like, “Modi did not have tea or samosa at 6:45 pm.” That is no longer part of the report.

The report finally concluded, “Times Fact Check has found several accusations made by Congress against PM Modi to be fake and baseless,” which differs quite a bit from what it says now.

Alt News, in its research, concluded, however, “while three of the four photographs used by Rahul Gandhi to take potshots at PM Modi were clicked before the Pulwama attack, the time when the fourth picture was snapped cannot be determined without the exact itinerary of the Prime Minister. Congress’s claim that the PM was shooting with Discovery till 6:30 pm doesn’t bear out, but there is no conclusive evidence presented by BJP that the shoot was over before the news of Pulwama attack reached the PM.”

Sinha and Sidharth added that “At the same time, BJP’s response leaves many unanswered questions. What was the PM doing at the time Pulwama attack happened and right after? If he received the news of the terror attack on his way to Rudrapur, why is there no evidence of him exiting the reserve? If he had already left the guest house and was on his way to Rudrapur, where did he do his meetings and calls? Why has the BJP response avoided giving the exact itinerary of the PM leading to the Pulwama attack and right after? Last but not the least, what was the exact time between which the Discovery shoot happened?”

While the Alt News piece raised questions, the ToI piece pronounced a verdict: “Almost all claims made by Congress and its president are fake”. And it was a verdict laid down all too soon. ToI has now not only removed the tweet sharing the article; the organisation has now added an addendum saying their “verdict” was premature.

Also read: Truth of Pulwama Attack Will Come Out if NSA Ajit Doval is Probed: Raj Thackeray

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