A network of at least 750 pro-India fake media outlets which resurrected dead media, dead think-tanks, NGO and even dead people to propel narratives that undermined Pakistan and served Indian interests has been unearthed by EU-Disinfolab.
The network's aim was "to consolidate the power internationally and improve the perception of India, to damage the reputation of other countries, and ultimately benefit from more support from international institutions such as the EU and the UN", the EU-Disinfolab report read.
EU-Disinfolab (EUD) is an independent European Union non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose researchers believe are based in Brussels. The investigation named 'India Chronicles' claims that fake media outlets led by Srivastava Group set in motion propaganda machinery to insinuate Pakistan (and China) internationally, with the help of Indian news wire agency Asia News International (ANI).
New Delhi-based Srivastava group has its businesses spread across sectors such as natural resources, Clean energy, airspace, consulting services, healthcare, print media and publishing. ANI is a popular new wire agency whose video feeds run most of the TV news media channels in India.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been more or less tense over the past decade. Both countries have tried to sell their narratives to influence international opinion about themselves.
Beginning Of Investigation
India Chronicles began with former President of the European Parliament, Martin Shulz, who is believed to have retired from active politics, was heading an NGO called Canners International.
The NGO that supposedly promoted food cans wasn't operational after 2007. However, it was continuously targetting Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council. Reportedly the 'India Chronicles' resurrected 10 such NGOs that even got UN Human Rights Council's accreditation, all of whom are allegedly linked to Srivastava group.
India-Chronicles would resurrect any NGO it can find to promote Indian interests. After Canners International was resurrected it mostly dispatched Geneva-based students to the UN to talk about Pakistan, and even organised side events on human rights at the UN.
The India Chronicles even resurrected Louis Sohn, the "grandfather of international human rights law", who died in 2006. The network showed Sohn as a participant at an event called 'Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan' in 2007, and as an attendee of an event in Washington DC in 2011.
Last year the researchers had traced 265 sites favouring India, that operated across 65 nations, back to Srivastava Group.The Logical Indian had reported about this last year.
In the latest report, the EU-Disinfolab found that the magnitude of SG's fake news network has increased to over 116 nations and has been operating for the past 15 years. The sophisticated network continues to operate even today.
The EUD report mentions one euchronicle.com, a fake news website that serves the Members of the European Parliament. The website attracted nearly a dozen MEPs in less than six months of its inception. The members would endorse anti-Pakistan and anti-China op-eds. These opinion pieces published on the EU Chronicle would then be repackaged by Indian wire news agency ANI.
ANI's news would then published by several other Indian media outlets on their respective channels, web portals, and newspapers. According to EUD, the European Chronicle's op-eds were distributed across the globe with the help of 500+ fake local media outlets but mostly through ANI.
Whom To Blame
"You need more than a few computers to plan and sustain such action. The fact that this network managed to operate so effectively (for 15 years) shows the sophistication and the drive of the actors behind Indian Chronicles," Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU DisinfoLab told the BBC.
However, the researchers have refrained from pinning the blame on any specific state actors. According to cyber experts, big networks, such as India Chronicles even though they have sophisticated modus-operandi doesn't mean the state directly runs them.