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UK press body doesn’t buy expert’s EVM claims

January 23, 2019 06:21 AM

COURTESY TOI JAN 23

EVM HACKATHON
UK press body doesn’t buy expert’s EVM claims
Members of Indian Journalists Association Question Own Group’s Invovlement In Event
Naomi Canton

London:

The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in London has distanced itself from a press conference in which a self-proclaimed cyber expert claimed that electronic voting machines can be hacked and that the 2014 general election was rigged.


The event had been jointly organised by the Indian Journalists’ Association (IJA) and the FPA, which represents foreign journalists in the UK capital, on Monday. On Tuesday morning the FPA, which had been trolled on Twitter all night, tweeted: “The FPA strongly disassociates itself with any claims made by the speaker Syed Shuja during the #IJA event in London yesterday. Not one of the speaker’s accusations have so far been corroborated.”

During the presser its Italian director, Deborah Bonetti, had tweeted a picture of Syed with dark glasses and a bandana and scarf around his face saying: “Riveting briefing with cyber expert and #IJA @FPALondon , but no proof at all for the many extreme allegations #brexit #hacking #elections.”

But by Tuesday Bonetti, who has also been trolled, tweeted: “The speaker at yesterday’s event #IJA did not follow up his claims with any proof. He was not credible and should not have been given a platform.” The event was held at The Clubhouse St. James’s, where the FPA regularly holds briefings.

When questioned further as to how the FPA could say he should not

have had a platform, when FPA sent a written invitation to its 500 members, she replied: “The IJA organised it and paid for the rooms.”

On Tuesday IJA president Ashish Ray confirmed: “The IJA treasurer and I signed a cheque in favour of FPA for the room hire and coffee/tea. FPA are members of The Clubhouse, where the press conference was held. As a member of The Clubhouse, FPA gets a discount. Since it was a joint IJA-FPA event, we availed of the discount.”

By Tuesday morning, scores of members of the IJA were expressing their concerns about the IJAs involvement in the event in group emails. One protested about the event being funded using IJA money; one said the event questioned the IJA’s credibility and it should think carefully about holding such events in future; and one member wrote: “I could see the political agenda behind this event but we were not consulted.”

Questions were raised over why this event was “free” when most events IJA organises are paid for. The IJA invitation had read: “IJA Europe has come into contact with a US-based cyber expert who promises to demonstrate on record how sabotage of elections through cyber attacks is possible and how this is being done. The world’s most populous democracy — India — is scheduled to hold a general election in April-May next in which an estimated 900 million people will be eligible to vote.”

 
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