Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) online Davos Agenda 2022 summit on January 17. However, the headlines and social media trends about the event revolved around the moment when the PM stopped speaking midway through his speech. A large section of social media users, including leaders from opposition parties, alleged that the reason for the abruption was a teleprompter failure. PM Modi was mocked for not being able to deliver a speech without a teleprompter.

The official Twitter account of Congress posted a 37-second video of the disruption during the live stream along with hashtag #TelepromptorPM. The hashtag #TelepromptorPM has been used by several verified Congress accounts to take a dig at the PM. Congress spokesperson Shama Mohamed, West Bengal Congress, West Bengal Pradesh Mahila Congress, Manipur Pradesh Congress Sevadal and Tamil Nadu Pradesh Congress Sevadal made the same claim.

Congress leader Revanth Reddy juxtaposed two videos – an old video of Rahul Gandhi alleging that PM Modi uses a teleprompter to speak, and on the right is the video of PM Modi’s disrupted speech at Davos. This video was shared by Congress leaders Salman Nizami and Ramkishan Ojha, Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Sevadal, and Punjab Pradesh Congress Sevadal.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan also made a similar claim.

This claim was also made on several high network Facebook pages/groups such as Mahua Moitra Fans [over 4 lakh followers]; Priyanka Gandhi fan page [over 7 lakh followers]; The Lie Lama [over 1.5 lakh followers]; Well Sunny [over 9K followers].

Glitch not due to teleprompter fault

In order to understand the controversy at hand related to PM Modi’s speech at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) online event, it is important to know the sequence of events leading up to the glitch.

PM Modi’s speech at WEF is available on the following YouTube channels — Narendra Modi, Doordarshan National and World Economic Forum. Unlike the channels of DD and WEF, Narendra Modi’s channel doesn’t include the glitch.

We noticed that while the PM was already speaking for over six minutes in DD’s version of the video, this portion of his speech was not broadcast on WEF’s YouTube channel. In fact, the first eight minutes of the WEF’s version of the live stream is blank, and when the live stream eventually starts, it can be seen that the PM is already midway into the speech. This clearly indicates that there was a technical glitch because of which the PM’s initial part of the speech hadn’t been live-streamed on WEF’s YouTube channel.

In the next section of the report, Alt News will explain the sequence of events along with the exact time stamps from the DD and WEF videos. Readers should note that all timestamps are from DD unless specified otherwise.

In the opening four minutes of the video on DD’s YouTube channel, PM Modi and the host, WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab, exchanged pleasantries. At the 5:04 mark, the PM began his address but without the usual speaker introduction. However, a few seconds prior [5:00 to 5:01 mark], a person can be heard enquiring in English, “… the graphics… sir?” After which the PM takes off his earpiece at 5:12 and begins his address.

However, at the 7:07 mark, PM Modi looks to his left and stops speaking. Around, 7:15, he addresses the host by his name and asks, “Can you hear me?” Schwab confirms that PM Modi is audible. The PM then asks, “Is our interpreter audible as well?” Schwab confirms in the affirmative and suggests (7:45 mark) that the official session begins again after “a short introduction with music…”

At the 10:49 mark, PM Modi restarts his speech. It is noteworthy that his speech is verbatim to his earlier opening remarks at the 5:04 mark. It is noteworthy that using a teleprompter for addresses is not out of the ordinary.

Upon viewing the same video on WEF’s YouTube channel, at the exact moment when PM Modi looked to his left, someone who was evidently managing the event from the event management team suggests that the PM should ask if everyone has joined in or not. A voice in Hindi addresses PM Modi, “Sir, ask them once if everyone has joined…”. It is after this that the PM enquires whether his speech and the interpreter’s voice can be heard. Thus, the reason why PM Modi stopped speaking was because of an interjection from the team managing the event.

Realizing that there was a glitch, Klaus Schwab introduced the PM, and the PM started the speech all over again. The sequence of events clearly indicates that the interruption was because of a technical glitch, and not a teleprompter snafu.

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About the Author

Archit is a senior fact-checking journalist at Alt News. Previously, he has worked as a producer at WION and as a reporter at The Hindu. In addition to work experience in media, he has also worked as a fundraising and communication manager at S3IDF.