On February 2, international pop icon Rihanna shared a tweet that immediately translated into a social media storm. The tweet contained a link card for a CNN article on ongoing farmers’ protests in India.
The article highlighted the issue of frequent internet shutdowns by Indian authorities around various places of protest. Rihanna in her tweet further wrote, “why aren’t we talking about this?”
The main highlight of the tweet could be interpreted in two ways, one that she wondered why no one is talking about frequent internet shutdown imposed by authorities in India, second — that people are not talking about farmer agitation in India and she lends her support for the movement.
In India Twitter has mostly become an ideological battleground and political discourse, the tweet caught up soon and responses started pouring in. As with all ideological debates, multiple conspiracy theories started emerging, with social media users doubting the concern shown by Umbrella singer’s tweet, alleging she had been paid for remarking on the farmers’ protest.
With Thunberg’s toolkit under the scanner, the question everyone was asking: Did Rihanna accept money to tweet on the farm protests?
While many made fun of such argument considering Rihanna has been named on Forbes’ list of richest self-made women in the US for the first time ever, with a net worth of $600m.
However, many seemed to discover some kind of international conspiracy to defame India. A claim which was bolstered by a ‘toolkit’ shared a tweet by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Soon enough, the cyber-crime cell of the Delhi Police registered an FIR on charges of “sedition”, “criminal conspiracy” and “promoting hatred” against the creators of a ‘toolkit’ on farmer protests, which was shared by climate activists Greta.
Some national media however earlier reported that an FIR has filed against Greta herself and that became a topic of enormous outburst (and ridicule), considering that the Delhi police is still to nab the person who is among the main accused in Red Fort violence on the Republic Day. He is somehow able to post online videos blaming farmers.
Delhi police meanwhile came forward to clarify that no one has been named in the FIR.
It was soon being theorized that the document was proof that an international conspiracy is being planned to defame India and the central government over the ongoing farmers’ protest.
Was Rihanna paid to tweet on India’s protests?
While most of the allegations about foreign conspiracy were mere conjectures till this point, a breakthrough report by The Print, alleged that Rihanna was paid by Canada- based Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF), even quoting the amount of $2.5 million by PR Firm with Khalistani Links.
The Print report also said that sources believe Skyrocket, a PR firm where Khalistani Mo Dhaliwal is a director, paid $2.5 million to pop star Rihanna to tweet in favor of the farmer protests. In Indian currency, that is well over Rs.18 crores.
It did not quote the name of the source, so it remained an unknown source. The article, however, was updated with the title changing to ‘Canada firm, MP, PR person suspected for farmers protest toolkit tweeted by Greta Thunberg.’
But before it was updated the report was picked up by multiple copycat news media in India and they started quoting ThePrint. One such report can be found by News18 here. Right-wing propaganda websites like Opindia too picked up the report.
It concluded in its article that the toolkit revealed that the campaign has been underway since at least November 2020 and there were plans to peddle propaganda on the 23rd of January and Republic Day, both very significant days for the country (sic).
But the original report of was changed or rather updated, this actually came after this tweet.
PJF, in a statement, had categorically denied all claims of paying the pop star or organizing the public figures together on social media.
The statement by PJF rejecting the claim that it paid Rihanna to tweet on Farmer’s Protest
The complex and absurd conspiracies being constructed to link Poetic Justice Foundation to any number of actors worldwide are entirely fiction Poetic Justice Foundation did not coordinate any protest activities occurring within India.
Up to India’s Republic Day, January 26th, 2021, and beyond – whether at Red Fort in Delhi or elsewhere in the country – we were not involved in directing or fomenting any protest activity of any sort within India.
Poetic Justice Foundation did not coordinate Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, or any number of specific celebrities to tweet about the #FarmersProtest. We didn’t pay anyone to tweet — and certainly didn’t pay anyone $2.5m to do so. However, we did generally encourage the entire world to share this issue.
Through the international collective of organizers, we encouraged the world to pay attention and amplify this message.
Our voices joined a global chorus that, together, may have played a small part in elevating this message enough such that conscious people appalled by India’s human rights violations during the farmers protest, decided to use their own platforms to raise awareness of the plight of the marginalized in India.
It is our hope that Indian media and government attention will invest their time and significant resources to the real issues of the moment: stopping the violence being committed against the farmers and their supporters who are agitating for their rights.
Surely, the largest democracy in the world is not so fragile as to feel threatened by dissent Surely, a government constantly proclaiming its own greatness will survive critique from a tiny non-profit organization in Canada that has been in existence for 9 months. This was signed by Anita Lal and Mo Dhaliwal.
The matter is still under investigation
While many reports have been updated after the statement by PJF, the investigation is still on. The cyber-crime cell of the Delhi Police has registered an FIR on charges of “sedition”, “criminal conspiracy” and “promoting hatred” against the creators of a ‘toolkit’ on farmer protests which and there is an ongoing investigation.
As the facts remain today, the PJF has rejected the allegations of paying money to Rihanna to tweet on farmer’s protest. The unnamed sources are still unnamed and many reports have been updated.