Indian editor arrested for spreading fake news

Mr Mahesh Vikram Hegde was arrested in southern Karnataka state on charges of spreading fake and communally sensitive news on his right wing website, a senior police officer said.
Mr Mahesh Vikram Hegde was arrested in southern Karnataka state on charges of spreading fake and communally sensitive news on his right wing website, a senior police officer said.PHOTO: TWITTER

BANGALORE • Indian police have arrested the editor of a website for publishing a fake report that Muslims had attacked a monk from the Jain faith, officials said yesterday.

Mr Mahesh Vikram Hegde was arrested in southern Karnataka state on Thursday on charges of spreading fake and communally sensitive news on his right-wing website, a senior police officer said.

The editor's online Postcard News reported on March 18 that Jain monk Upadhyaya Mayank Sagarji had been attacked by Muslims. Police said the monk was actually injured in a road accident.

"We have arrested Hegde for posting fake news on his news portal alleging that a Jain monk was attacked by Muslims," Bangalore Joint Commissioner of Police N. Satish Kumar said in a statement.

The cybercrime police "have registered a case against the portal and its owner Hegde for the false news", Mr Kumar added.

Mr Hegde also shared the "news" on Twitter, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of his more than 78,000 followers.

The news item and tweet were later deleted, police said.

Postcard News is a controversial website which usually carries stories that glorify Mr Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. One story details the heroism of an Indian soldier "who single-handedly killed 300 Chinese soldiers".

Another talks about how India would reduce nuclear China and Pakistan into "crumbling ruins" if it is faced with a "two-front war".

India has seen a proliferation of fake news as more and more people in the country of 1.2 billion turn away from traditional media to Internet items on smartphones.

False stories peddled as news led to seven people being killed by a mob in eastern Jharkhand state last year after a rumour spread on WhatsApp that they were child traffickers.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2018, with the headline 'Indian editor arrested for spreading fake news'. Print Edition | Subscribe