The Editors Guild of India on Friday said it was “disturbed” by the recent turn of events with respect to reports published by news portal ‘The Wire’ on Meta and urged newsrooms to “resist the temptation of moving fast on sensitive stories”.
The statement comes after The Wire retracted a series of its investigative reports claiming Meta, the parent company of social media giants — WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram — had accorded special privileges to BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya that enabled him to get posts removed from its platforms.
The Guild also withdrew references it had made in its earlier statement to reports carried by The Wire on an app called Tek Fog after the news portal removed the said stories following “serious questions on the veracity of their reporting”.
“The Guild is also disturbed by the recent turn of events with respect to the reports published by the Wire on Meta. The Guild is conscious of and emphasises the need for extra care in investigative journalism, and urges newsrooms to resist the temptation of moving fast on sensitive stories, circumventing due journalistic norms and checks,” a statement issued on Friday morning said.
With regards to Tek Fog, the Guild had issued a statement on January 11, expressing deep concern about the online harassment and targeting of women journalists.
“Amongst other instances, the statement had also referred to a series of reports carried by the Wire on an app called the Tek Fog. Since the Wire has removed those stories as part of their internal review following serious questions on the veracity of their reporting, the Guild withdraws the references made to all those reports,” it said.
However, the Guild reiterated that online trolling of women journalists remained an important issue, and that better safeguards need to be put in place, including a strong and effective complaints and redressal system for the victims.
BJP’s Malviya on Thursday said he will file criminal and civil proceedings against The Wire, as he accused the news portal of using “forged documents with a view to malign and tarnish” his reputation.
Meanwhile, on October 27, in “The Wire Editorial: To Our Readers, an Apology and a Promise”, the portal said it acknowledges that the internal editorial processes which preceded publication of its Meta stories did not meet the standards that we set for itself and its readers expect from it.
“The Wire is also conducting a comprehensive editorial review of the internal editorial processes which resulted in the publication of these stories in order to identify and plug any and all shortcomings. That process of review is still under way, but one clear editorial learning which can already be stated with certainty is that complex technical evidence – whether brought by someone who is part of the newsroom or a freelancer – and all verification processes that involve technical skill, must be cross-checked by independent and reputed experts in the field. Had we done this before publication rather than after the fact, this would have ensured that the deception to which we were subjected by a member of our Meta investigation team was spotted in time,” it said.
The Wire Editorial team said further that it takes moral responsibility for the omission and undertakes to ensure that in future all technical evidence will be verified by independent experts before publication.
“To have rushed to publish a story we believed was reliable without having the associated technical evidence vetted independently is a failure of which we cannot permit repetition. Another obvious learning is that the editing process for any investigative story should involve multiple layers of editors. We are instantly putting in place appropriate protocols to ensure this happens. This combination of not fully grasping the complexities of technology and a slippage in editorial assessment of tech-related matter resulted in the publication of stories which did not eventually hold up. For this we owe an apology to our readers,” the apology stated further.
“In making this open admission and putting in place more robust processes for checking and cross-checking documents and indeed all source-based information, we are promising our readers that there will be no recurrence. The particular question of what prompted the abrupt take-down of an innocuous Instagram post remains, as does the general concern about the options social media users have for speedy and fair resolution of disputes that affect freedom of online speech. This is all the more reason for The Wire to resolve greater vigilance and thoroughness in its reportage from this day on,” it added.