It is now almost two months since the Brussels NGO EU DisinfoLab published its report on the "Indian Chronicles", which uncovered a major disinformation network serving the interests of New Delhi. The revelations have been picked up by media outlets around the world, but much of the reaction has been outside Europe. Srivastava has been operating in Europe for over fifteen years, with fake news sites, puppet NGOs and dubious links with sympathetic MEPs, and all while barely raising an eyebrow. "We've obviously touched a delicate spot", explains the EU DisinfoLab director general Gary Machado, in recounting this odd story.
The report and its media coverage were sensitive enough to force a response from an Indian foreign ministry spokesman, Anurag Srivastava (no connection to the Srivastava Group). On 11 December, he stated that "as a responsible democracy India does not engage in disinformation campaigns". This came after an offensive by Pakistan, which had jumped on the issue to fuel its own anti-India propaganda. That outcome was no surprise to the members of EU DisinfoLab, who expected their work to be used in the rivalry between the two countries.
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In this case, the counterattack from New Delhi was swift. It came through the Indian news agency ANI (Asian News International), in the voice of its star journalist Smita Prakash, known for her complaisant interviews with Indian politicians close to the Modi government. This time, deference and restraint were clearly no longer required, as she did not hesitate to accuse the Brussels NGO of being agents of Pakistan. She then broadcast to her 821 000 Twitter followers some nebulous arguments which supposedly proved the allegation.
It was more or less the same line as used by the lobbyist Madi Sharma – who also presents herself as a journalist. In an exchange of emails with the investigation’s authors, the British woman – who penned several pro-India articles signed by MEPs – asserts that EU DisinfoLab is probably commissioned by Pakistan and is paying the media who published the "Indian Chronicles". Are the accusations just coincidence? "We've already been accused of working for Mossad, the European Union, NATO, the Poles...", says an amused Gary Machado, adding that nobody at ANI saw fit to contact them so as to back up their articles. Nor did the agency respond to interview requests from Les Jours.
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And what about the EU? Here, the reaction is muc…