The ministry of information & broadcasting (MIB) on September 26 announced the blocking of 45 videos from 10 YouTube channels. The MIB said in a statement: “Based on the inputs from intelligence agencies, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has directed YouTube to block 45 YouTube videos from 10 YouTube channels. Orders to block the concerned videos were issued on 23.09.2022 under the provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.”
On going through the available content of the 10 channels, Alt News could see that there was an inherent bias in their selection. When it reached out to the channels, only two of them — Dhruv Rathee and Mr Reaction Wala (MRW) — cooperated with this correspondent. Of the two, Alt News could only access the four removed videos posted by MRW. Upon close analysis of the clips, the reasons for their removal were not apparent.
According to the ministry statement, the blocked content was found to be detrimental to the ‘sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, India’s friendly relations with foreign States, and public order in the country.’
सूचना प्रसारण मंत्रालय ने 10 यूट्यूब चैनलों को देश के खिलाफ जहर उगलने वाले, भ्रामक खबरों के माध्यम से मित्र देशों के साथ सम्बंधों को ख़राब करने का प्रयास करने के लिए प्रतिबंध लगा कर उन्हें सस्पेंड कर दिया है।
राष्ट्रहित में ये पहले भी किया है, आगे भी करेंगे।
— Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) September 26, 2022
The press note also stated three types of content categories under which the ban was exercised —
- Reason 1 (Communal misinformation): The content included fake news and morphed videos spread with the intent to spread hatred among religious communities. Examples include false claims such as the Government to have taken away the religious rights of certain communities, violent threats against religious communities, declaration of civil war in India, etc. Such videos were found to have the potential to cause communal disharmony and disrupt public order in the country.
- Reason 2 (Misinformation targetting India): Some of the videos blocked by the Ministry were being used to spread disinformation on issues related to Agnipath scheme, Indian Armed Forces, India’s national security apparatus, Kashmir, etc. The content was observed to be false and sensitive from the perspective of national security and India’s friendly relations with foreign States.
- Reason 3 (Incorrect maps): Certain videos depicted erroneous external boundary of India with parts of J&K and Ladakh outside the Indian territory. Such cartographic misrepresentation was found to be detrimental to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.
Alt News could not find any of the above reasons applicable to the four blocked videos of MRW. It also went through the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, based on which action was taken against the YouTube channel, but there also, Alt News couldn’t find anything that justified the blocking of the four videos in question.
Analysis of the videos by Mr Reaction Wala that were banned
- Video 1 [Uploaded on Sept 6, 2020]: In this video titled ‘Ex Muslim Insult Islam Quran & Now Hindu Gods Reaction by MrReactionWala’, the host discusses controversial YouTuber Armin Navabi — who allegedly hurt the sentiments of the Muslim and Hindu communities in a podcast. Around the one-minute mark he opines that “Islam exercises more tolerance when it comes to other religions”. Later, says that no religion should be criticized.
- Video 2 [Uploaded on Oct 6, 2020]: This video is titled ‘Muslim Police Officer Suspended For Keeping Beard’. (the title is given in both Hindi and English) It is based on a news report that Baghpat sub-inspector Intizar Ali was suspended for keeping a beard without permission. The incident was reported by Hindustan Times, The Times of India, The Print, India Today and others. Hindustan Times reported, “Manoj Singh, the public relations officer of the Baghpat police, cited the police manual and said only Sikhs are allowed to keep a beard while all other policemen have to be clean-shaven.” India Today wrote, “Inputs indicate that SI Intesar Ali was warned three times to seek the department’s permission to grow a beard, and failure to do so resulted in his transfer to police lines.” It’s worth noting that around the 2-minute mark, the anchor opines that this practice of not allowing Muslim police officers to bear a beard goes against Article 25 — Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion.
- Video 3 [Uploaded on May 13, 2021]: The title of the video is in Hindi. it can be translated as “Yogi government shocked, Hindus unite to vote for Muslim pradhan in Uttar Pradesh Ayodhya rural election”. [Yogi सरकार के उड़े होश, Muslim बना प्रधान, हिन्दुओं ने मिल कर जिताया उत्तर प्रदेश अयोध्या ग्राम चुनाव]. The video is about how voters of a Hindu-dominated village in UP’s Ayodhya district elected Hafiz Azeemuddin — a cleric from the lone Muslim family in the village — as the gram pradhan in the 2021 panchayat elections. This incident, too, was reported by several media outlets, including The Times of India, News 18, and The Wire. As per TOI, “Azeemuddin bagged 200 of the total 600 votes, edging past six other candidates in the fray, all of them from the Hindu community. He polled 85 votes more than his nearest rival. There are 27 Muslim voters in Rajapur and all of them are members of Azeemuddin’s extended family.” In the video, around the one-minute mark, the person reading the script says that other leaders like to win elections by illicit means such as indulging in identity politics, offering freebies like non-vegetarian meals and alcohol, and exaggerated promises. Though this is not backed up by data in the video, anyone familiar with Indian elections would know that the claims are not altogether imaginary.
- Video 4 [Uploaded on March 20, 2022]: This video is titled “Hate Against Muslim, Canada Masjid पर हमला [attack on], Aamir Khan On Hindu”. Unlike the others, this video shows MRW commenting on four contemporary topics — (1) A 2020 hoax video that was debunked by several news outlets including NDTV; (2) A viral video indulging in anti-Muslim hate speech, (3) An attack on a mosque in Canada which was reported by medial outlets across the world and (4) analysis of Amir Khan’s trolling based on a dialogue from his 2014 film PK. In the last part, MRW pointed out that Paresh Rawal — whose 2012 film OMG: Oh My God! had parallels with Khan’s film — wasn’t subjected to such trolling.
To sum it up, Alt News found that none of the videos could be categorized under the three reasons listed in the September 26 press release by the ministry of information & broadcasting.
Statement by Mr. Reaction Wala
MRW, who prefers to be addressed by his YouTube handle, told Alt News, “I’m aware that some YouTube channels peddle fake news. However, I don’t feel that the four videos from my channel can be categorized as fake news. Nonetheless, at the moment, I have deleted them from the channel.”
When Alt News asked MRW what kind of content he made, he said, “My videos are not news reports. However, I do commentary on various events from Indian and other countries. Nonetheless, I ensure I am not misleading my audience in any way.”
Among the other channels, Gaurav Thakur from GetsetflyFACT uploaded a detailed video statement on the matter on his YouTube channel GetSetFly Fact. In the video, he explained that before he could make the necessary changes, the video was banned. Similarly, Rathee shared his views about the ban in an interview with Lalantop. Their videos had initially depicted the Indian map erroneously.
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