A day after fact-checker and journalist, Mohammed Zubair was arrested by Delhi Police for outraging religious feelings and promoting enmity between two religious’ groups, based on an old tweet. The Editor’s Guild of India, released a statement calling the arrest as extremely disturbing and appealed for the immediate release of the Alt News co-founder. The statement also said that “Zubair and his website have done some exemplary work over the past few years and that Alt News was in fact, resented by those who use disinformation as a tool to polarise the society.
The statement came ahead of the G7 meet in Germany where Prime Minister Modi, along with seven other leaders resolved to “protect the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline and ensure a free and independent media landscape.” The editor’s guild through its President Seema Mustafa, General Secretary Sanjay Kapoor and Treasurer Anant Nath, in its statement favoring Mr. Zubair, sought his immediate release in order to “buttress the commitments made by the Prime Minister at the G7 meet, to ensure a resilient democracy.”
Tweet that led to his arrest
Mr. Zubair was arrested on Monday, following a complaint by Delhi Police Sub-Inspector Arun Kumar, who says that he was monitoring social media when a he came across a twitter handle by the name of ‘Hanuman Bhakt’ objecting to a four-year-old tweet by Mr. Zubair where he had shared a screenshot of a 1983 classic film directed by filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee called, ‘Kisi se na Kehna’. The screenshot depicted a hotel board that read “Hanuman Hotel” and the paint marks suggested that the board had been corrected and that the hotel was earlier called 'Honeymoon Hotel' and that the "Honeymoon" was changed to "Hanuman". Mr Zubair wrote in the tweet, "Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel, After 2014: Hanuman Hotel".
He has been booked under sections 153 (promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc) and 295 (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC. The Delhi Police First Information Report (FIR) states that the tweet was highly provocative and more than sufficient to insight a feeling of hatred, among people.
Opposition Slams Centre
Arrest of the 39-year-old journalist has received a lot of wrath, not just from the Editor’s Guild but also from the opposition, independent journalists and social activists. Mahua Moitra and Rahul Gandhi are among the eminent opposition politicians who opposed his arrest and slammed the central government for curtailing freedom of speech.
The latest to come in support of Mr. Zubair is the Indian wing of the International-Non-Governmental Organisation, i.e., Amnesty International India, and also the Press Club of India. Amnesty have stated in their statement that “Harassment and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders for tirelessly seeking the truth and justice have become alarmingly commonplace in in India.”
The Press Club of India also demanding release of the fact checker, issued a statement saying that, “The action by the Delhi Police in hastily arresting Mohammed Zubair showed the blatant violation of the country's commitment on the global platform given by none other than the prime minister himself.”
Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha alleged that the police did not any prior notice to Zubair, even though it is mandatory for the sections under which he has been arrested.
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