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Day after London EVM row, organiser distances itself from controversial event

While the Foreign Press Association (FPA) “strongly” dissociated itself from the event, the other organiser, Indian Journalists Association (IJA), called for an inquiry into allegations made at the event.

Updated: Jan 22, 2019 20:56:52

By Prasun Sonwalkar

The event, held in the central London location of The Clubhouse, was attended by senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal. Ray said he had sent invitations to other parties, but only Sibal attended it. (Arijit Sen/HT Photo)

A day after an individual sought to demonstrate EVM hacking in London, one of the organisers on Tuesday distanced itself from the controversial event.

While the Foreign Press Association (FPA) “strongly” dissociated itself from the event, the other organiser, Indian Journalists Association (IJA), called for an inquiry into allegations made at the event.

The FPA (founded in 1888) said it “strongly disassociates” itself from claims made by the speaker, who called himself Syed Shuja. “The Foreign Press Association strongly disassociates itself with any claims made by the speaker Syed Shuja during the #IJA event in London yesterday. Not one of the masked speaker’s accusations have so far been corroborated,” the FPA said in a tweet.

Also Watch: Akhilesh Yadav raises question on credibility of EVMs, cites Japan’s example  



FPA director Deborah Bonetti added: “The speaker at yesterday’s event did not follow up his claims with any proof. He was not credible and should not have been given a platform.”

As London-based Indian journalists raised serious questions about the event’s content, IJA president Ashis Ray said both FPA and IJA organised the event “in good faith”, and noted the FPA distancing itself from the event.

Ray said the individual, who spoke through Skype from a location said to be in the United States and made a series of unsubstantiated allegations, is a “radio frequency engineer Syed Hyder Ahmed (also known as Syed Shuja)”.

He added: “Admittedly, the accusations made by Ahmed were very serious, which he could not substantiate. He left a roomful of scribes highly sceptical, if not annoyed.”

However, Ray said the documents provided after the event appeared to establish that Shuja was granted asylum in the US. He questioned the basis of the US decision, and said the answer “obviously lies with Washington”.

He said in a statement: “The picture he painted of what allegedly occurred in Hyderabad in May 2014 was clearly chilling. A proper inquiry would perhaps unearth if his charges are true or false”.

“On the face of it, Ahmed’s utterances via Skype left most journalists who listened to him and questioned him unconvinced. People are unlikely to believe Ahmed until and unless he decisively demonstrates – which he had promised to do – that EVMs are not infallible”.

Ray added: “I have been a broadcaster and journalist from 1971 and a foreign correspondent since 1977. I consider it my right to explore news with unfettered freedom. In hindsight, we can say that Ahmed disappointed. But that does not mean we should not have listened to him.”

The event, held in the central London location of The Clubhouse, was attended by senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal. Ray said he had sent invitations to other parties, but only Sibal attended it.

“Since invitations were sent to party presidents concerned, I surmised Mr Sibal had been sent as an observer to the press conference. He sat in one of the back rows of the room; and did not participate in the proceedings in any way”, Ray added.

Formed on May 29, 1947, weeks before India’s independence, the IJA is described as a representative body of Britain-based correspondents and journalists reporting on and covering India and South Asia-related issues.

Its membership today comprises representatives of Indian media outlets covering Britain and Europe from an Indian perspective, as well as journalists working for British Asian news organisations.

First Published: Jan 22, 2019 20:35:27

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