The United States Secretary of Defence General (Retd.) Lloyd J. Austin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his three-day visit to India. This was the first outreach by the US administration since Joe Biden was elected President less than two months ago. NDTV’s report that the US Defence Secretary said that he discussed human rights issue with Indian ministers is receiving substantial backlash on social media. One Avinash Srivastava juxtaposed NDTV’s report with an ANI tweet where ‘sources’ in India state the opposite.

Another user Atul Ahuja termed NDTV ‘Pakistan media house’ while claiming that the outlet falsely reported that Austin had a discussion on human rights issue with Indian ministers when ANI says that he did not. Both Ahuja and Srivastava are followed by BJP leaders on Twitter.

There are several other posts where NDTV has been accused of spreading false news.

Fact-check

NDTV was not the only media outlet that reported the news. Initial reports said that human rights were discussed in a meeting with the US Secretary of Defence. In fact, while social media users shared a tweet by ANI that cites ‘high-level sources’ claiming no discussions took place, ANI had earlier quoted ‘reliable’ sources in a report stating, “In an hour-long meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, apart from geostrategic affairs, the issue of Human Rights also figured.”

ANI had also tweeted about the discussion.

Two days after the above report, ANI claimed ‘high-level Indian sources’ confirm that there was no discussion on human rights in India with US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin.

Was human rights in India discussed with the US Secretary of Defence?

The US Department of Defence has uploaded the full transcript of the conference held in New Delhi attended by Lloyd J Austin. The US Secretary of Defence was asked whether he raised the topic of violations of human rights in India, especially against Muslim minorities, during his interaction with PM Modi.

Austin answered that he did not have an opportunity to discuss the issue with the Prime Minister but he did have a conversation with other members of the cabinet.

A video of his reply can also be watched below.

ANI has cited ‘sources’ to claim that human rights issue wasn’t brought up in the conference. India’s denial is not on the record. The US, on the other hand, has placed Austin’s statement on the record.

Several journalists have also pointed out that the Indian government has to deny on the record.

Not only was NDTV unfairly targetted for a report carried by multiple news outlets, but NDTV’s story was also not incorrect. Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin’s statement that human rights in India were discussed with Indian cabinet ministers is on the record. While ‘sources in India’ say no discussion took place, it has not yet been denied by the government on the record. ANI first quoted ‘reliable sources’ and claimed that the issue of human rights was brought up, and later quoted ‘high-level sources’ to claim that it wasn’t.

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About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.