Madi Sharma and IINS linked to ‘265 coordinated fake media outlets’ spread over 65 countries

DisinfoLab, a European NGO, claims to have detected 265 fake media outlets spread across 65 countries with links to the controversial Shrivastava Group of companies, Madi Sharma and IINS

Image courtesy:  DisinfoLab website
Image courtesy: DisinfoLab website
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NH Web Desk

Madi Sharma and IINS are back in the news after hosting Members of European Parliament to Kashmir last month.

DisinfoLab, an NGO based in Belgium, in a report claims to have tracked a network of 265 fake media outlets in 65 countries with strong India connections. All these outlets, the NGO claimed, published syndicated content from the same sources, mostly from Russia Today and Voice of America, and appeared to be in the forefront of media campaigns directed against Pakistan.

The NGO reported that the network seemed to be surreptitiously serving Indian interests and are designed to influence the European Union and the UN agencies.

The links to Madi Sharma, who had last month invited a group of MEPs ( Members of the European Parliament) to Kashmir, and the relatively unknown New Delhi based International Institute of Non-Aligned Studies ( IINS), which apparently paid for the junket, indicated strong links to India of the fake media empire, the report says.

While the NGO says it would be releasing a more comprehensive report in the coming weeks, the report has already raised disturbing questions. There is no clarity yet about the funding of these outlets, IINS and Madi Sharma, who had claimed to be powerful enough to fix up a meeting of the MEPs with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While India’s Ministry of External Affairs declared that it had nothing to do with the visit of the MEPs, the fact that the delegation could meet the Prime Minister and the National security Adviser, indicate links with powerful lobbies in India.

The report also cited a finding in early October by the European External Action Service’s East StratCom (the EU Disinformation Task Force set up in 2015) revealing that www.eptoday.com, the website of Sharma’s self-proclaimed magazine for the European Parliament in Brussels, had been re-publishing a large amount of news directly from Russia Today and Voice of America.

EU DisinfoLab discovered EP Today is managed by Indian stakeholders, with ties to a large network of think tanks, NGOs, and companies from the ‘Srivastava Group’.

“We also found that the IP address of the Srivastava Group is also home to the obscure online media ‘New Delhi Times’ and the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), which are all based at the same address in New Delhi, India,” the report adds.

“Using OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) techniques, we continued our investigation into this network, and this led us to Geneva, where the UN Refugee Agency has its headquarters. There, we discovered timesofgeneva.com – an online ‘newspaper’ that is ‘approaching 35 years in business’.

Strangely enough, Times of Geneva publishes the same type of content as EP Today and produces videos covering events and demonstrations criticising Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir conflict,” the report holds.

“We found hard evidence that both EP Today and Times of Geneva have extremely strong ties with a network of NGOs and think tanks, such as the European Organization for Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), and Pakistani Women’s Human Rights Organization. Specifically, the websites of these NGOs and think tanks are hosted on the same servers and/or staff have worked for one of these previous organisations while publishing articles for EP Today.”

“We also proved that the two influence networks (Brussels and Geneva) were interconnected by discovering links between website registration addresses, email addresses, and domain names,” says the report.

“These organisations have been active for several years (at least since 2010 for EP Today). Digging further into servers, IP Addresses, and Twitter accounts led us to 4newsagency.com, which presents itself as a ‘synergy between 4 news agencies from Switzerland, Belgium, Thailand, and Abu Dhabi (UAE)’, with ‘teams located in 100 countries’.

“Once more, we observed the same modus operandi as EP Today and Times of Geneva: content syndication (republishing content already available); contact address located in a co-working space/office; extensive coverage of Indian-related matters.”

“Tipped off by 4newsagency.com itself and by the presence of Canadian and American (now offline) NGOs and think tanks on the same servers as EP Today and Srivastava Group, we discovered an additional network of over 265 resurrected media in more than 65 countries, following a similar modus operandi. Here are some findings from these websites:

1. Most of them are named after an extinct local newspaper or spoof real media outlets;

2. They republish content from several news agencies (KCNA, Voice of America, Interfax);

3. Coverage of the same Indian-related demonstrations and events;

4. Republications of anti-Pakistan content from the described Indian network (including EP Today, 4NewsAgency, Times Of Geneva, New Delhi Times);

5. Most websites have a Twitter account as well.”

The report concludes: “One may wonder: why have they created these fake media outlets?

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Published: 15 Nov 2019, 8:00 AM
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