Following a social media outrage over misogynistic comments made by a yesteryear movie director, this reporter had contacted an official of the Social Welfare Department to get more details regarding the issue when she got the shocker. The mid-ranking official refused to talk unless she showed an identity card. “Of late, many people are calling and pretending to be reporters to get information from us. If you want me to talk to you further, take a photograph of our press identity card and WhatsApp the same to me,” the official said. Surprised at the unusual verification practice, this scribe clarified to the official that it wouldn’t be necessary and tried to convince her that she had no other motive but to get a reaction. The official, who wasn’t quite satisfied with the response, did not disclosing the information but instead gave the contact number of her superior, who was known to the scribe. While the information was obtained without having to WhatsApp an ID card, the exchange revealed the paranoia among officials when talking to scribes and rightfully so, considering the number of people misusing press privileges from making random phone calls to pasting press stickers on private vehicles.
—Swedha Radhakrishnan, Chennai