(This email was sent to us by Flynn Remedios – a regular contributor to IndiaScoops.com and our social media expert. We have published it as is)
The Editor & Publisher
I am a daily reader of your esteemed website Altnews.in and have great respect and regard for your investigative reporting which has helped unravel and bust several instances of fake news and fake propaganda.
However, I never expected that “one day” I would become a “victim” of your investigative reporting, without you bothering to get any clarification from my end or taking/giving me adequate time to respond to your queries, even if you tried to contact me via any of my social media profiles.
In fact, I had contacted you via your Facebook profile some time ago and requested you to share your contact number as I wanted to discuss a certain story. If I remember correctly – my memory fails me at times as I am getting ‘old’, we even did speak on phone approximately about a year ago.
I am shocked at your story which makes incorrect, wild and highly defamatory allegations against me which have no connection or context with the current situation at hand – the publication of certain articles on a website IndiaScoops.com with which I am editorially connected though not on a daily or regular basis.
Your allegations and references are totally one-sided and biased. Every statement and allegation is totally biased and one-sided and in the interest of justice, I wish and request you to set the record straight and do justice to me.
I have been a journalist for the last 26-28 years. I first started writing for The Daily (during Rajiv Bajaj’s time) and for The Blitz (during Russi Karanjia’s time) as a freelancer, in or around the 1990s, where I covered Politics, Bollywood and City News.
I do not want you to spend your precious time reading my entire bio data, but I have written (as a freelancer or retainer) for Business India, Financial Express, Business Standard etc., on subjects like Information Tech and Finance and publications like Afternoon, Current (Magazine), Mid-day, etc., during 1990 to 1993. I joined Gentleman Magazine and Business Computer (an Indian Express publication) as an employee in 1993-4, before the Express group split into Indian Express and The New Indian Express. I was part of the Nusli Wadia (he was a director on board) core team for a short while.
I covered the Stock Markets for The Asian Age and also did general reporting. I worked (full-time as an employee) with The Sunday Observer, The Indian Express, The Economic Times, Showtime and Island (Magna Group) for varying periods of time. I was associated with The Stock Exchange, Mumbai as an Information Technology analyst and IT auditor and also wrote for the Stock Exchange‘s in-house publications. The concerned people are long retired and some of them may have passed away. This was in 2001-2003.
I have co-authored or ghost written or helped edit/ sub books on IT (C, C++, Network Security) written by the very famous internet guru the late Vijay Mukhi, during 1993-96, under whom I learnt programming languages like C, C++, Assembly (language) etc. I was part of the initial IT industry movement in India in the 1990-1999 with stalwarts like the late Dewang Mehta, Vijay Mukhi, Raj Saraf (founder owner of Zenith Computers) and Harish Mehta (founder of formerly Onward Novell). Due to my association with Vijay Mukhi for 4-6 years, I mastered computers and computer networking and also hacking. I have assisted the Mumbai Cyber Crime cell in 2001 and the IPS College at Hyderabad where I was a visiting lecturer on hacking techniques.
I have also lectured at IIM Ahmedabad on hacking. This can be verified by the news links prominently published on India Today, Times of India, Wired Magazine etc. In 2000-1, I was an adviser to the Maharashtra government on Cyber Crime when most people in India did not know what it was.
I was part of the tech consulting team when the Information Technology Act was first formulated. I am enclosing some links below to prove my claims. Since you have spent so much space on running me down, I think it is just fair that you publish my achievements and detailed tech knowledge as well, or else, I will consider it a fit case for defamation. The articles were published below in 2001. I was a columnist for several publications in 1999 and 2001 on Tech subjects. Some of the links are below:
I was a techno-legal consultant and a practicing advocate as well, for a short while.
However due to personal reasons, I returned my sanad (license to practice issued by the Bar Council) and stopped practicing law. I still do non-lit work, like drafting or editing and sub-editing plaints and legal notices for several senior counsel in Mumbai.
Unfortunately, most of the news links prior to 2003-5 are no longer online and many of the other websites are non-functional and news portals like The Times of India, The Economic Times, Indian Express, etc., have removed or archived older articles.
I worked with Rahul Mahajan (not officially his company on paper) in a company India Online Network Ltd as vice president projects, for a short while, which can be proved by the article here published in 2001.
I have also worked with the late Pramod Mahajan for a short while
I have worked with the Reliance Group as a freelance consultant, when Shri Dhriubhani Ambani was heading the company in the early 1990s on some very special projects.
The article on Rafale which is at the centre of the storm is based on voice recordings of the concerned persons. Indiascoops.com has proof to prove their claims. And the editor Megha Chaudhary can give you more details on this. I partially worked on this article which was co-authored by 3 people.
I am replying to your individual claims and allegations individually as below: My replies are in red and bold / italics below the text of your story published on Altnews.in.
I kindly request you to publish this clarification as is, since you have given so much space to accusing an otherwise simple, ordinary and aging ‘journalist and publicist’.
The text of the Altnews.in article is reproduced below:
IndiaScoops is a website that recently came under the scanner after it published a report which claimed that 35 lakh rupees had been spent by the PMO for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s yoga video and photoshoot on International Yoga Day on June 21. An RTI report had subsequently confirmed that this claim is false. This false report was shared by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor among others critical of PM Modi.
The story clearly mentions that it was based on hearsay and speculations made by a PMO source on the telephone. It does not claim to be gospel truth. Also the article clearly states that the alleged amount of Rs 35 lakh was not necessarily spent on shooting the video, but was all inclusive of promotion of the video on various TV channels that ran it prominently. I am not connected to indiascoops.com on a daily basis, though I am associated with them as I handle social media for them and also occasionally write for them on certain subjects. The website indiascoops.com is managed by an independent team of writers, of whom I am one of the contributors and founding members.
This report was refuted by the Government which emphatically stated that it is untrue. On September 24, another article by IndiaScoops was shared by Congress social media head Divya Spandana who tweeted a link according to which ‘two top technical heads at Dassault Aviation’ had spoken to IndiaScoops and claimed that “the entire technical staff team at Dassault Aviation were unhappy with the move to drop the Indian PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd(HAL) and go ahead with Reliance Defence Ltd.”
This article by IndiaScoops served as ammunition for the opposition. Many verified handles on Twitter had shared the link to this article in the midst of the Rafale controversy.
Since IndiaScoops is a website that has been caught spreading fake news earlier, Alt News decided to investigate the origin of the website and the entity behind its operation. What we found was a complex maze of dubious websites and user accounts with shadowy operations.
I am not the right person to defend Indiascoops.com and you should contact the editor, but since I write for them and also handle their social media, in all fairness before you state that indiascoops.com has been caught spreading fake news, please show me one fake article. There may be unverified news which has been clearly stated so in the articles, but no articles are fake to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Alt News investigates
On Twitter, using a date filter, we found that the first tweets to the IndiaScoops website were from the Twitter account @IndiaScribesTV. These dated back to the first week of May this year. We checked this Twitter account and found that it is the account of a website named IndiaScribes.
On opening the website, we found that the two websites, IndiaScoops and IndiaScribes were near-identical in their format and user interface, suggesting that the two websites are run by the same entity.
The IndiaScribes website mentions one Flynn Remedios as the editor and publisher. The website is not fully functional. Clicking on the ‘About Us’ section results in a ‘404-file not found’ error.
I cannot afford to maintain IndiaScribes.com since I have no funds and no sponsors and hence it is non-functional or partially functional.
Alt News found that the Facebook page of IndiaScoops started off as a fan page of model and actor Arshi Khan. It was later renamed multiple times. This has been earlier revealed by OpIndia.com. At the time of writing, the page had been deleted.
The page is not deleted. It was mass-reported by bhakts and BJP trolls in an organised and concerted campaign on 25 and 26 Sept and hence has been unpublished by Facebook. I have appealed the decision of FB to unpublish my page – which I handle on their behalf, based on fake reporting by paid trolls belonging to one particular political party and I am awaiting the appeal process.
I used to handle PR, publicity and other activities for Arshi Khan till March 2018 to augment my income. The page was an Arshi Khan Bigg Boss fan page when she was in Bigg Boss and I sold it to indiascoops.com in May 2018, after it was no longer required after the show was over. Besides Arshi Khan created a new page and got it verified and wanted to handle it herself. This is not a crime in any way and is a common practice in the social media circuit.
We also looked at all those who were sharing links to IndiaScoops articles on various social media platforms, and came across a group on Facebook called Mumbaiwalla. We found that here too, a majority of the posts were by a Facebook user, Flynn Remedios.
We also came across a domain name themumbaiwalla.com on DomainBigData and found that it is registered in the name of Flynn Remedios. Additionally, the phone number mentioned on the Mumbaiwalla Facebook page too is registered in the name of Flynn Remedios according to Truecaller.
Furthermore, we also found that the same phone number has been shared by another Twitter account called IndyaNewz.
The said number used to belong to me till about 3 years ago. It now has been re-cycled by the operator and belongs to someone else.
Moreover, we discovered that one of the earliest tweets on the IndiaScribes account pointed to the IndyaNewz website. This website is no longer operational. We searched the details of this website on domainbigdata.com which is a repository of historical information for different domain names. Here, we found that IndyaNewz is also registered in the name of Flynn Remedios.
This helped establish the fact that Flynn Remedios is the person who is running the IndiaScoops website.
I have already stated above that I handle social media and occasionally write for indiascoops.com and am part of the founding team.
Who is Flynn Remedios
According to this profile on Facebook, Remedios is a journalist, editor, social media guru and managing editor/publisher of IndiaScribes. We searched for Flynn Remedios on Twitter and came across an account where he again describes himself as the editor of IndiaScribes. We found that this account is not active: the last tweet is of January 10, 2018.
We then searched for Flynn Remedios on the professional networking site LinkedIn and found that there were four profiles by the name.
Intriguingly, we did not come across a single photograph of this person. The only photographs we found on his name were of female models and actors.
A tangled web of dubious portals
One of his LinkedIn profiles refers to his professional history and shows that he was also managing editor of multiple websites like IndyaWire, IndiaNewsInfo and IndiaNewsNet among others. Alt News found that these websites are no longer functional.
Just because they (the websites) feature Bollywood gossip and bikini images which are used by all top film and news portals, why are they dubious portals. Websites which are operated by me individually do mention my name and contact email id. Does that make them dubious? This is clear attempt at one-sided defamation without ascertaining the full truth. For your kind information, top news portals purchase images or give me a back link credit when using my images in their stories? Just because a subject does not appeal to you or is not your cup of tea, does it become dubious.
In one of his LinkedIn profiles, Remedios has been designated as the editor and CEO of Futuristic Media Network. This took us to a Blogger profile by the name of Futuristic Media Network. Here, we found a plethora of links to blogs which mostly deal with Bollywood gossip. Many of these blogs date back to 2007 and 2008. Intriguingly, we found articles from The Economic Times dating back to 1997 which were authored by Flynn Remedios. However, there is not a single verifiable social media account of this person that we came across.
This blog list took us to yet another website, Newz66, which is again operated by Flynn Remedios. This website too is no longer operational. The archived version can be accessed here. It mentions Remedios as the editor and publisher of Newz66.
Our research led us to conclude that all these questionable websites which have similar templates are being operated by a single entity, Flynn Remedios. These websites are full of sensational content. The titles of the articles published on these websites are click-bait in nature, there are no references to the claims made in the reports.
Is it a crime to publish gossip or filmy news in India? I have also been a film journalist in the past and also handle PR for artistes and Tv personalities (to augment my personal income as one cannot at all survive as a free lance journalist in India.) Is that a crime? You have used the word sensational content. Please clarify. Is publishing bikini images a crime? I am also a freelance photographer and do photo shoots –and publish them on my websites. Many models cannot pay for their photo shoots during their initial struggling days and also want to get noticed online. So please tell me if doing a bikini or glamour shoot and publishing a few images online, is in anyway a crime in India? For your kind information, publications and media houses like the Times of India, India Today, Hungama.com etc and content providers and content aggregators like Rediff, Santabanta.com, Yahoo and MSN pay the photographers huge amounts for such shoots. Is it illegal to do this, as has been implied in your article?
Sensationalism and fake news
All the websites operated by Flynn Remedios are replete with articles on Bollywood actors and models, apart from a few reports on politics. Many of the stories are make-believe; for example, on the IndiaScoops website, we found numerous ‘news reports’ on Flynn Remedios himself which make rather bizarre claims.
Why can’t I promote myself or my business as a PR, photographer and publicist? What bizarre claims have been made? Instead in my humble opinion, it is Altnews that is resorting to sensationalizing this story without waiting for a response from me.
Alt News spoke to actor Arshi Khan who confirmed that Remedios is not her publicist. “I am not associated with him in any way. He is a controversial person who keeps making false claims about me. He is neither my manager nor my PR agent.” On being asked as to why there are links to IndiaScribes on her Twitter account, she stated that she did not have a Twitter account when she first appeared on Bigg Boss, and that the account in her name was created and operated by Remedios without her knowledge. She later managed to retrieve her Twitter account from him.
I spoke to Arshi Khan and she has completely denied saying this. She told me she only said I no longer handle her PR and work, which is true. I have WhatsApp print screens to prove this. However, I still handle some legal issues for her. Just today I attended the court of The Competent Authority (Rent Act) at Mumbai (Konkan Division) to submit an application on Arshi Khan’s behalf. I am not handling her PR and work as a manager right now, due to certain issues which are privileged and private between us and hence I do not want to specify here. Besides, due to my health (I suffer from diabetes, asthma and other health problems) and my age, I am not able to run around as events and appearances for a celebrity need a younger person who can run around more.
Arshi Khan told me clearly that she has been misquoted by your website and she never said the above. Whatever the truth, I have mentioned my side of the story. I created and managed her Twitter account till Feb 2018, after which I mutually handed it over to her. The statement above that her Twitter account was managed without her knowledge was completely false. Since the last one year, I have not posted any news on Arshi Khan. I handled her PR when she was in the Bigg Boss house and for two months after that and all content published on her was with her explicit consent. We are in regular touch with each other and are good friends. She considers me as her father and I treat her like my daughter, because of our age difference.
This is hardly surprising, as Remedios had earlier claimed to be the agent of actor Rakhi Sawant, which was rubbished by the actor in 2011, “This Flynn guy had been calling me, posing as a journalist first and extracting information about my work, in the garb of taking my interviews. Later, when I learnt that he was incorrectly claiming to be my publicist, I stopped speaking to him and taking his calls. He has never been my publicist, but keeps issuing fake statements on my behalf”.
I worked with Rakhi Sawant in 2005 for about 2 months. She gave me a cheque from PNB and I can search and provide records of the same. After which I went to Delhi to work with Anil Ambani. If you may recollect the Ambani brothers were at war in 2005, for distribution or share holding of the business and I was part of the Anil Ambani team for a short while of about 2 months. Tony Jesudasan of Team Anil Ambani and Mrs Olga Tellis, former Editor of The Asian Age can confirm this if required.
I also wrote a book titled “Brothers in Arms” on the battle between the two Ambani Brothers based on my experiences, where I interviewed several journalists covering the Ambani war at that time. This was covered in a column in the Deccan Herald or Deccan Chronicle – I don’t exactly remember, which I think has been removed or is no longer available online.
This was in June-July 2005, after the two Ambani brothers reconciled and came to a settlement. The book was never published as no publisher was willing to publish such a book that was not particularly favourable to the Ambani clan, particularly after they had sorted out their differences to a larger extent.
The above quote by Rakhi Sawant is dated 2011, six years after I ceased working with her and was given to the publication by a rival publicist who was later on handling Rakhi Sawant at that time in 2011, due to professional rivalry. I was with Rakhi Sawant for only 2 months as her PR, but that is a fact and I stand by it. I wonder how this is relevant to this article on Altnews, but without knowing the entire context you have used this old article or snippet – which in itself is one sided and does not have my side of the story – about 8 years old to try and prove that I peddle fake news, which is editorially and ethically incorrect.
Remedios was also in the news in 2010 when Ritu Sachdeva, a Kannada model and actor had accused him of duping her of Rs.4 lakh with the promise that he would guarantee her a break on Bigg Boss. A police complaint had been filed against him.
This was in 2008. I shot, edited and released 4 music videos for Ritu Sachdev, which in my opinion was worth the money she paid me. She did not give me Rs 4 lakhs but had paid a much lesser amount. The model filed a fake complaint and the matter was eventually dismissed by the court. I am not aware of any latest developments but this was 10 years ago.
Alt News also found that Flynn Remedios tries to contact young female models/actors on Facebook, and the common theme of these comments is that he is going to publish an article/interview of that person, and asks them to personally message him.
This is done my most journalists who do not have a contact number of a person they seek to interview. If I message a model on Facebook since I am a freelance journalist and PR, I am legitimately doing my business. Is that a crime?
Your article mentions legitimate business activity and tries to portray it as a crime or criminal activity. You have published my private conversations on Facebook. That is a breach of privacy and if you could get these private FB conversations, why couldn’t you reach me or wait for a reasonable time frame till I could respond. I take strong objection to this tactic used by you / Altnews.
Alt News found that the extent of this dubious operation by Flynn Remedios which spans across several questionable websites, is staggering.
Specify the “dubious operation” in detail as alleged above? Don’t make wild, baseless allegations. Running Bollywood websites anonymously is not at all a dubious activity, as falsely alleged by you. I have a right to protect my privacy online. This is my fundamental right. Your own website Altnews only mentions a contact email id. Which I have also done on my sites.
Apart from Bollywood gossip, a new area of operation appears to be fake news around politics and policy. Considering the opacity with which the PMO operates and the secrecy around defence agreements, it is ludicrous and plain inconceivable that an obscure website like IndiaScoops would manage to access sensitive details concerning the money spent on either the Yoga video or the Rafale deal.
Dear Altnews, please wait, there is much more to come. I have worked with the Ambanis’, on some “special projects”, but due to certain professional ethics and my respect for the patriarch, the late Dhirubhai Ambani, I am not opening my mouth, which if I did, would shake the industry today.
It has been observed that public figures active on social media have repeatedly shared content from such obscure websites owing to confirmation bias, thus providing traction to these fraudulent websites.
Your article has gone to great lengths to defame me in this story and have published all material that is defamatory to me, without waiting for a clarification or digging deeper or publishing the positive aspects. I have sent you news links to prove my claims.
In the earlier years from 1990 to 2002, there were no websites or news portals for the publications I worked for, like there are today, or for that matter FB was also practically unknown, or in other cases my articles and content has been removed and hence my professional achievements are not online. My investigative journalism articles published in The Blitz, The Daily and Island Magazine before 1996 are hence not available online. This does not in any way mean that I have not been a full time mainline journalist and your article does not mention that at all.
Finally, I have worked with the Reliance Group on some very special projects, approximately 20 or 21 years ago (don’t remember exact dates) and again in 2005. If I open my mouth, the mountains will fall….
I have not responded to articles by websites like OpIndia, MyNation, RightLog etc., as these websites are BJP right-wing propaganda machines and are funded and supported by the BJP or pro-right or pro-BJP teams. The people who write for them are relative amateurs and have no idea of “what really lies beneath”.
I am not Anil Ambani’s enemy or anti-Modi or anti BJP – many of my friends are BJP local leaders in Mumbai, but as a writer and citizen of democratic India, I have a right to express my views.
Unfortunately, these above websites like OpIndia and MyNation are managed or owned by my former colleagues or professional contacts, with whom I have interacted with in the past.
It is a sad state of affairs in India today, where the world of journalists has got divided into two sides – BJP or right-wingers and left or liberal or Congress sympathizers. Journalism in India has got split down the middle – either you are pro-Modi or anti-Modi.
There was a time in the late 1990s and even before the Modi era, when we as journalists never bothered which political party you sympathized with -that was totally personal and private
But a respectable and impartial website like Altnews.in, which I hold in great esteem runs such a one-sided, defamatory story is very hard to digest, dear Pratik?
Please, publish this email in totality, in the interest of justice, failing which I will be compelled to take appropriate legal action – both civil and criminal against the one-sided original story published by Altnews, that is completely and factually incorrect and makes wild allegations and insinuations, based on coincidences and conjecture.