New Delhi: YouTube Thursday removed a video in which a content creator with over 4 lakh subscribers said certain journalists, activists and fact-checkers must be “hanged to death” for “conspiring against India”.
The video had been posted on a channel called ‘The String’, founded by one Vinodh Kumar, who is reported to be a 29-year-old alumnus of the National Institute of Technology, Warangal.
YouTube said in a message on the page that the video has been removed for violating its policy on harassment and bullying.
While several journalists expressed their outrage at the video and that YouTube had allowed it to be aired, many BJP leaders including Kapil Mishra and Tajinder Singh Bagga voiced their support for it.
Senior journalist and editor and owner of YouTube channel Mojo, Barkha Dutt said the video was “crappy, defamatory, violent, threatening”.
This crappy, defamatory, violent, threatening video calling for our arrest and worse is on @Twitter @YouTube @instagram. This is your litmus test if you're at all serious about platform cleansing. And finally, for the creators of this video, go shove it. https://t.co/RSnOIzkRvh
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) February 11, 2021
Others like journalists Faye D’Souza and The News Minute’s Dhanya Rajendran also reacted sharply.
RTI activist Saket Gokhale pointed out that this “hateful propaganda” was “being promoted by BJP IT cell”.
The video (now taken down) was being promoted by BJP IT cell. BJP spokesperson @SureshNakhua even tweeted the video tagging me, praised it & challenged me to take legal action.
It's time that creators of such hateful propaganda & its enablers face the full force of the law. https://t.co/yM6QNpo59a
— Saket Gokhale (@SaketGokhale) February 11, 2021
You don't get to decide who is anti-national bcos this nation ain't your property. A govt is not the nation.
You can incite violence and ask for journalists to be hanged. But I will keep asking readers to support good journalism. Here is TNM link- https://t.co/YKFhcsTxHN
— Dhanya Rajendran (@dhanyarajendran) February 11, 2021
In the last 24hrs – we took a big leap towards #QAnonCult style of content. Conspiracy theories mixed with call for mass hangings of journalists asking tough questions. While @TeamYouTube took down the video; the channel is active & will produce more hate.https://t.co/uNkD3bpMTL
— The DeshBhakt (@TheDeshBhakt) February 11, 2021
I’ve reached a point of exhaustion and disgust at the things that are said to me on a daily basis. There are other journalists, esp women, who are stronger and made of sterner stuff. I have so much respect for them. Sigh. https://t.co/V9Wf0zB3vY
— Faye DSouza (@fayedsouza) February 11, 2021
What the video said
In the video, Kumar alleged that environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s support for farmers’ protest in India was a “planned event”, and vowed to expose the “toolkit incident”.
He also said there is a nexus between institutions funded by US billionaire George Soros and certain Indian media outlets and activists. He said several journalists, activists and fact-checkers were part of a “money trail” that traced back to Soros.
A teaser of the now-deleted video was also posted on Twitter, and has gathered over 5.5 lakh views since Wednesday.
Hon'ble @narendramodi ji @HMOIndia @MEAIndia @NIA_India @dir_ed
MY LIFE'LL BE IN DANGER AFTER THIS VIDEO & ONLY U CAN SAVE ME.#StringReveals has #StringedDeshdrohis & exposed the #RealGodiMedia & their #MoneyTrail.
— The String (@StringReveals) February 10, 2021
The “toolkit” referred to in the video is a document posted by Thunberg last week that sought to explain how people worldwide could express their support for the ongoing farmers’ protest at Delhi’s borders. Thunberg had in her tweet said the toolkit had been prepared by people on the ground.
The support expressed by international figures like Thunberg and popstar Rihanna to the farmers’ protest in India has stoked a controversy, with the Indian government describing it as the work of “vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests and derail them”.
The first toolkit tweeted by Thunberg — before it was deleted and substituted with an “updated version” — also led Delhi Police to file a sedition FIR against unknown persons.
Kumar’s video — which is in English — was promoted as an “attempt” to get to the bottom of the toolkit shared by Thunberg. Kumar said he aimed to get behind Thunberg’s “money trail”, and said her tweet in support for farmers was a “planned event”.
He claimed that the toolkit shared by the activist in February had been “planned” five months earlier.
According to Kumar, DIGIPUB found a mention in Thunberg’s toolkit. DIGIPUB is an association of India’s digital media outlets and independent journalists. Its founding members include AltNews, Scroll, Newslaundry, The Quint, The News Minute, and The Wire.
He listed all the members of DIGIPUB and asked: “Why is it again matching with the Greta leaked toolkit names?… This is not a coincidence.”
The video also targeted, by name, journalists Barkha Dutt, Alt News fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, RTI activist Saket Gokhale, YouTuber Dhruv Rathee and media entities including DIGIPUB members, Caravan, Outlook, PARI, India Spend and the Congress party.
In the video, Kumar can be seen “requesting” the CBI, ED and the Modi government to “probe” these particular news outlets for their “money trails”. He claimed that if these outlets were investigated, their money trails would prove to be linked to “someone big”.
He alleged that these media entities had received funds to carry out “propaganda” against India. He also warned YouTuber Dhruv Rathee: “Dhruv Rathee, your countdown has begun, pack your bags, shut down your fake channel and go on a long trip with your girlfriend.”
Kumar again called for journalists to be “hanged to death”. “You (Rathee) used articles from The Quint, The Wire, Alt News and Newslaundry as authentic sources. I prove with facts that these are anti-national elements that are directly involved in destabilising the country. Now when they will be hanged to death, whose article will you use?”
Kumar also alleged that Rathee, Zubair, Alt News’ Pratik Sinha, The Wire’s Arfa Khanum Sherwani, Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekri were the “reason” the economy of this country was not doing well. He also targeted journalist Barkha Dutt and her venture Mojo and asked the Modi government to “investigate its money trails”.
“Even after giving so many proofs and paths for agencies to follow, Modi ji if you won’t shut down (these media outlets), you won’t deserve a next term in 2024,” Kumar said.
What BJP leaders said
Several BJP leaders demanded the video be made public again by YouTube.
BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who was accused of giving a provocative hate speech on the eve of riots in northeast Delhi last year, said the video was “bringing out the truth”.
— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) February 11, 2021
BJP MLA Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga claimed the video had “shaken up a 70-year-old ecosystem”.
. @StringReveals के 1 वीडियो से हिल गया 70 साल पुराना इको सिस्टम ।
— Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga (@TajinderBagga) February 11, 2021
.@KathirNews YouTube channel with 30K Subscribers & videos(interviews, political programs etc.) overnight got suspended by #YouTube! No content violation, no strikes. Whatever happenend to @StringReveals isn't surprising, next attack will be suspending #StringReveals Channel now.
— SG Suryah (@SuryahSG) February 11, 2021
Praising video is my freedom of speech and prerogative.
Taking legal action is your right.
And what is this puerile challenged me and all.
If u can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. https://t.co/9RU9M5YvbS
— Suresh Nakhua (सुरेश नाखुआ) (@SureshNakhua) February 11, 2021
This report replaces an earlier version which wasn’t adequately researched. Which we regret sincerely.