This Story Needs to be Told: Rana Ayyub on Rape Threats & Trolling

At the Global Editors Network Summit, the investigative journalist opened up on the online hate campaign against her

3 min read
Rana Ayyub. 

“The kind of journalism that I do is not palatable to the dispensation. But does that mean you target a woman journalist like this?”

Speaking at the Global Editors Network Summit (2018) that took place in Lisbon from 30 May to 1 June, investigative journalist and author Rana Ayyub spoke on the many instances of nation-wide harassment and online trolling that was directed at her in a span of two weeks, sanctioned by the ruling party.

Ayyub, who has been a known face in the industry for over a decade, also spoke about how her colleague, Gauri Lankesh was killed a month after she had published Ayyub’s book in a regional language.

Following the online hate campaign against her, UN human rights experts had called on the relevant authorities in India, to act urgently in providing protection to Ayyub.


How Did the Online Hate Campaign Begin?

Ayyub said that the hate campaign against her was conceived a day after she had given a speech at an awards ceremony in India on 20 April, about how the freedom of speech in newsrooms was being stifled.

A day after this, a fake tweet was generated in her name, which said: “I support child rapists in the name of Islam”. This, she said, was shared by a million people online, following which, she received a slew of rape threats.

While she was still reeling from this, another fake tweet – which was verified – was generated in her name, saying “I hate India and I hate Indians”.

This was shared two lakh times by online users, who didn’t bother to even check whether the statement was truly made by her or someone else. And the retaliation to this fake tweet, she said, was what broke her down.

‘I Crumbled and I’m Not Ashamed of It’

Rana Ayyub is an investigative journalist and author. 
Rana Ayyub is an investigative journalist and author. 
(Photo courtesy: Facebook/ Rana Ayyub)

Amid the stream of hate messages, death threats and gang-rape promises that she received following the fake tweet, she was sent a video by a member of the ruling party, who she knew on a professional basis.

It was a two-and-a-half minute pornographic video, with my image morphed into it. Within minutes, my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were filled with people sharing screenshots from this video. 
Rana Ayyub 

Without giving her time to recover from this, another fake verified tweet was put out- this time with the words “I’m available”, accompanied by her number and address. In response, she said, men started sending her pictures of their naked bodies and asking her how much she charged for her sexual services.

This was done with an agenda to discredit my work. I was vulnerable, I crumbled and I’m not ashamed of it.  
Rana Ayyub

Reactions from the Police, Authorities

Ayyub said that although she had taken her complaint against the ones posting the fake tweets to the police, it took her two hours to convince them to file a criminal complaint against the same.

She added that the hate campaign seemed to be endorsed by the state to an extent, because some of the people who had put out the fake tweets in her name, were followed by members of the ruling party.

When the UN human rights experts got in touch with the government for concerns over Ayyub’s safety, the only response she got from the state government and the masses was: “Why did you have to go to the UN?”

But, speaking at the event, Ayyub seemed no longer scared.

“I don’t know what lies ahead for me, but the story needs to be told,” she said.

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