A virtual seminar organised by the Editors Guild of India on Friday had to be called off within 10 minutes after multiple spam users joined the meeting and began posting obscene videos and messages.

The seminar, titled “Reporting from Red Zones”, was organised to discuss experiences of those reporting from Maoist-affected areas and was scheduled to be held at 3 pm on February 12, the Editors Guild said in a statement. The speakers included journalists Malini Subramaniam, PV Kondal Rao, Milind Umare, Tameshwar Sinha, Faisal Anurag, and Purnima Tripathi.

The Editors Guild of India said that within five minutes, multiple spammers “who clearly did not want the speakers voices to be heard”, joined the meeting and began to cause “relentless disruption”. Some of the spammers started by posting frivolous song videos.

The meeting host tried shutting down the window of each such guest, but the Guild said that the number of such disruptors kept increasing. Soon, spammers started posting obscene messages on group chat as well as shared screens with pornographic content and abusive language. Eventually, the meeting had to be ended without any of the guest speakers getting a chance to speak.

The Guild said that it was shocked and disturbed by what it called an unprecedented and blatant attack on freedom of speech. “Naxal infested areas have been subjected to some of the most horrifying and gruesome instances of state excesses,” it added. “The webinar speakers have been at the forefront of chronicling the conflict and the human rights abuses over the last few decades.”

It further demanded that the Cyber Crime Cell investigates this attack on free speech and book the cyber attackers.