News Agency ANI Quoting 'Non-Existent', 'Fake' Sources: EU DisinfoLab Report

ANI responded to the EU DisinfoLab's report and its findings, calling it "defamatory and fake."

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Belgian NGO EU DisinfoLab – a non-profit that works to tackle disinformation campaigns related to the European Union – published its latest investigation on news agency ANI, which discusses how the agency has repeatedly quoted sources from defunct organisations in its articles with "pro-India narratives."

The report follows two similar ones published in 2019 and 2020.

In its 2019 report, the Lab discovered 265 fake local media outlets in India which were "designed to influence the EU and the UN by repeatedly criticising Pakistan.”

It traced this coordinated activity to the Internet Protocol (IP) address of one Srivastava Group, which had come under scrutiny after sponsoring a visit for 29 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir in October 2019.


Their 2020 report was published after analysing a 15-year-long operation targeting the EU and United Nations (UN) to push pro-Indian interests and narratives, involving over 550 registered domain names, more than 750 media outlets and identity theft.

Referring to ANI as an agency playing a “relevant role” in India’s information ecosystem, it mentioned two of its older investigations which showed that ANI had frequently quoted two defunct “fake media outlets supposedly specialising in EU affairs.”

ANI's editor Smita Prakash responded to the report on Twitter, dubbing it "defamatory and false." She said that the agency would continue to report on atrocities in Pakistan and China.

ANI Playing a Key Role in ‘Influence Operation’

Its latest report was published on 23 February, in partnership with Forbidden Stories, a non-profit collaborative that publishes stories from journalists facing threats, titled ‘#BadSources: How Indian news agency ANI quoted sources that do not exist'.

The report discussed how ANI quoted “geopolitical experts” on multiple occasions in stories on Pakistan’s military or China’s diplomacy with respect to India.

“A think tank that we had previously linked to the Srivastava Group and that was legally dissolved in 2014, is now quoted about twice a week by ANI,” it read.

The report goes on to mention how ANI routinely cites studies and reports by two organisations – the International Forum for Right and Security (IFFRAS) and Policy Research Group (POREG). 

ANI responded to the EU DisinfoLab's report and its findings, calling it "defamatory and fake."

The report shows how bad sourcesgain legitimacy.

(Source: EUDisinfoLab)

Assessing that ANI has “failed its readership,” the Lab’s report mentions how these organisations quotes ‘bad sources’, naming real people as participants in conferences that they said they did not attend, going as far as fabricating quotes from them.

Calling out ANI’s pattern of “identity-hijacking,” it says “ANI is, de-facto, playing a key role in this influence operation” of building narratives critical of China and Pakistan for its Indian readers.


IFFRAS: Dissolved in 2014, Held Conference in 2020

Referring to its previous investigations EP Today (2019) and Indian Chronicles (2020), the EU DisinfoLab showed how IFFRAS had officially been dissolved on 17 October 2014.

However, the forum’s website remains active and is constantly being updated. 

Interestingly, IFFRAS claimed to have held a discussion on the “Increasing presence of Muslim Brotherhood” with four professors at the University of Montreal in January 2020, two of whom “confirmed they had never attended such a conference and that the Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with their field of expertise,” the Lab said.

The summary of the conference posted on IFFRAS’ website carried plagiarised speaking points from “other sources,” said the report.

It also highlighted a major discrepancy in the “conference’s” discussions, where a speaker allegedly referred to an “underground cell of the outlawed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood” being uncovered in Sudan in February 2020, which happened in the month following the ‘fake conference’.

ANI responded to the EU DisinfoLab's report and its findings, calling it "defamatory and fake."

A previous report revealed that IFFRAS had officially dissovled in 2014.

(Source: EUDisinfoLab)

Delving into the backgrounds of more than 70 speakers at this fictitious conference that never happened, the researchers found that - “Ms Oliver Carter” at the University of Toronto, “Ms Staphany Campebell,” and assistant professor at the University of Manitoba didn’t exist.

This, it said, reflected a pattern of mistyped names of non-existent people, which they had observed in their older investigations as well.

Despite being called out in the past, ANI quoted IFFRAS “more than 200 times between May 2021 and January 2023” even after the forum’s conspicuously suspicious behaviour online, it said. 

“In most instances, it was not only quoting but using the IFFRAS ‘reports’ as the backbone of the articles,” said EU DisinfoLab.

‘Just a Single Rotten Apple’ for ANI? Nope!

Giving ANI some benefit of the doubt in IFFRAS’ case, the report questioned whether the forum could “just be a single rotten apple” among ANI’s sources.

However, they found that this was not the case.  

EU DisinfoLab’s report looked into some of the agency’s other oft-cited sources and came across the Policy Research Group, or POREG. Here, they saw that while three new contributors had joined the platform in the last two years, they could not find “any other sign of their existence.”

Some of these contributors followed the same pattern of misspelled names. 

  • James Duglous Crickton (a misspelling of ‘Douglas’) published a piece on the late Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf’s “secret bank account in Switzerland” in 2016, which was picked up by ANI.

  • Crickton also posted an article on behalf of EP Today’s ‘Maria Rutowicz’ on a website called, which ANI cited in its report.

  • One more POREG contributor that ANI has quoted is named ‘Magda Lipan’ who has also been referred to as ‘Magad Lipan’ or ‘Magda Lipin.’

  • Lastly, POREG’s Crickton also published an article by ‘Ms Valentin Popescu’ – allegedly a woman of Romanian descent as per her bio – who “would probably be called Valentina rather than Valentin.” ANI has, on multiple occasions, used Popescu's POREG reports.

ANI responded to the EU DisinfoLab's report and its findings, calling it "defamatory and fake."

The reportshave observed a patternof misspelled names.

(Source: EUDisinfoLab)

Attempts to contact these individuals through POREG were unsuccessful, the report stated.

Just like in IFFRAS’ case, these people associated with POREG do not put in much effort to appear credible online and both seem to rely on ANI, “which provides the think tank with regular and consistent coverage,” the Lab said.

Real Organisations, Suspicious Sources

Reports published by a France-based think tank, Center of Political and Foreign Affairs (CPFA) also began showing up in ANI articles in 2021. This is a legitimate organisation registered in Hong Kong, the report mentioned. 

Though ANI carried genuine reports by the Center, the Lab found that some of the content published by the agency could not be attributed to real people at the CPFA.


They reached out to the Center to get in touch with two such people by the names of ‘Ronald Duchemin’ and ‘Mario De Gasperi’ who produced several reports on “pro-Indian narratives,” but did not get any response from CPFA.

“All this would be laughable if it weren’t the case that hundreds of press articles eventually republished the content produced by all these fake personae,” the report reads, adding that unfortunately, these reports were being reproduced across Indian media outlets and reached “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of readers.”

Highlighting the issues such reports create, the Lab discussed how such narratives – which came from fictitious, unreliable sources – not only create an unchallengeable chain of thought in people, but also cause them to question honest, credible media organisations, think tanks and NGOs, as ANI's reports get republished by several notable news organisations such as Hindustan Times, Business Standard and News18, among several others that enjoy high readership.

‘Attempt To Create Credibility and Legitimacy’: EU DisinfoLab Researchers

The researchers behind this report, Gary Machado and Alexandre Philippe, say that they “find themselves left with minimal solutions” as to what can be done to contribute to a “better information ecosystem.”

“ANI does not seem to be concerned by being the only major agency quoting them as a primary source. In other words, journalists working at ANI must know these sources are fabricated – and if they don’t, they are failing as journalists. In fact, who really cares?" it reads.

The report pins the problem to the structure of these operations, mentioning that though its target is the Indian audience, the agency mentions European institutions to bring “more credibility and legitimacy to its narratives.”


While authorities and legislators in Europe said they felt “powerless, unconcerned or motivated by other priorities” when questioned about possible solutions, the report called Europe and North America the “enablers, co-producers, de facto partners of the disinformation and propaganda machines in other parts of the world.”

Inviting the European Union and authorities to reflect on possible ways to tackle the issue, the Lab suggests a few ways to do it.

  • In its previous investigations, the Lab found that participants were either directly offered cash or other financial remuneration for their work, suggesting that the authorities "follow the money."

  • Saying that these actors were "hiding in plain sight,” the Lab calls on the EU to further investigate them.

  • Referring to the Union’s Data and Privacy laws, as well as financial transparency regulations, the EU DisinfoLab said that existing laws should be enforced whenever allegations came to light.

  • Lastly, it called on media entities to be more responsible with their reporting, as exempting any platform from moderation would pave the way for “en masse disinformation.”

‘Defamatory and False’: ANI Responds

Taking to Twitter, ANI’s editor Smita Prakash called the report “Defamatory and False” in a statement

Countering the Lab's accusation of violating the Charter of Munich, which says one must "respect the truth, whatever the consequences," she said that that was precisely why they covered "human rights atrocities" in regions of China and Pakistan "where voices from minorities aren't heard."

The statement questioned the Lab's accusation of the agency using "bad sources" too.

"...why don't they send their reporters to these regions to provide a counter argument of a 'picture perfect democracy' that exists in these regions...... . if that is what they indeed believe is going on in these regions?" it read.

The editor further raised questions regarding agencies such as Reuters and BBC's "liberal use of anonymous sourcing," asking whether EU DisinfoLab expected them to forgo the anonymity of their sources in places where divulging sensitive information has severe retribution.

Mentioning that the report's last story was from July 2021, Prakash said,

"My question - It has taken these professors 2 years to deny the story? EU Disinfo Lab claims ANI stories potentially reach millions…..if that is the case, were these professors sleeping all these years? I would point you to several similar cases in India where academics have been forced to withdraw statements or change course, because of hostile press queries in order to avoid controversy."
Smita Prakash, Editor of ANI, in a tweet.

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