Times Of India rolls back their fact-check on PM’s whereabouts after Pulwama attack

FAKE: Congress makes false claim of PM Modi shooting for film at Corbett 3 hours after Pulwama attack”. The tweet by Times Fact Check was retweeted over 6000 times. PM Modi’s itinerary on the day of the Pulwama attack has been the subject of much discussion. With Congress claiming that he was shooting for a Discovery film, there were several fact-checks to verify the claim. While others tried to reconstruct the schedule on the basis of available information, Times Fact Check delivered a verdict in favour of the BJP version quoting an unnamed government source [Link to old archive].

The essence of any fact-check is independent verification of the claim. It took Alt News hours of extensive research to complete the exercise. After going through live videos posted by social media users, reviewing reports of local media, studying the trail maps of the Jim Corbett reserve and speaking to forest officials familiar with the park, Alt News found that while the Congress claim about the Discovery shooting featuring PM Modi carrying on till 6.30pm was incorrect, there was no conclusive evidence supporting the BJP claim that the Discovery shoot was over before news of Pulwama attack reached PM Modi. There were too many unanswered questions and no evidence of PM exiting the park to match BJP’s claim that he left for Rudrapur meeting at 3:30pm, and received the information about the terror attack on his way. The Alt News fact-check was perhaps the last one on the topic, driven by a need to be thorough rather than the first to post a sensational conclusion. You can read the Alt News fact check here.

Within hours of the comprehensive fact check by Alt News, the Times fact-check tweet was found to be deleted. The article has a new title that reads, “Congress BJP trade charges on PM Modi shooting for film at Corbett 3 hours after Pulwama attack” and the following update is posted at the beginning of the article:

UPDATE: Times Fact Check had earlier delivered a verdict on this story based on the response it received from the government on Congress’ charges. However, the fact check team was unable to independently verify the claims from both sides and as such our original verdict on the issue was premature. We are therefore reissuing this story with an update.

The “verdict” is updated to state “Times Fact Check is not in a position to state a verdict in this case, so it is merely placing here the points made by both sides”.

Original article extensively shared

The original article was shared extensively by Union Minister, MPs, MLAs and other BJP functionaries and supporters. Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju was among those who tweeted the article. Some perhaps mistook it for a genuine fact-check whereas others shared it because it confirmed to their bias and provided them with ammunition against the opposition.

The article was widely circulated with BJP IT cell head, Amit Malviya also sharing it.

While it is laudable to issue a correction on realising one’s error, in this case the damage is already done. The original tweet was shared over 6000 times but the revised one had zero retweets in twelve hours. The article was shared over 46,000 times on Facebook before the update. Alt News also found that even though the English article has been updated with a revised ‘verdict’, translated versions in regional languages are yet to be updated. Even as and when they get updated, it is unlikely that they will be circulated as widely as the older version with the sensational headline.

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