Mohammed Zubair, a journalist and co-founder of India’s leading fact-checking website Alt News was arrested and charged by police for hurting religious sentiments.
In early June, Zubair, 39, was given the charges after calling some far-right Hindu monks “hatemongers.” The monks who were subject to his inflammatory remarks have a history of making anti-Muslim statements, and at least one of them had called for a “genocide” of the minority community.
These charges fall under the Indian Penal Code Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 295-A (malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), Deputy Commissioner of Police KPS Malhotra said.
Notably, Zubair was one of the first to share a video of the notorious televised debate involving the now-former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Napur Sharma commenting on the prophet’s child-wife, Ayesha. Since then, he has been targeted by members of the BJP and right-wing Hindu groups.
Prime Time debates in India have become a platform to encourage hate mongers to speak ill about other religions. @TimesNow's Anchor @navikakumar is encouraging a rabid communal hatemonger & a BJP Spokesperson to speak rubbish which can incite riots.
Shame on you @vineetjaintimes pic.twitter.com/lrUlkHEJp5
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) May 27, 2022
“I was more angry [with] the news anchor because they gave a platform to her. After she uttered those words, they didn’t even stop her. I felt very bad, which is why when I tweeted, I didn’t mention Nupur Sharma’s name or her Twitter handle but was furious with the anchor and the news channel,” Zubair told Al Jazeera.
Alt News co-founder, Pratik Sinha, said on Twitter that Police summoned Zubair to investigate a 2020 case for which he already had protection against arrest from the High Court. “However, today at around 6.45 pm, we were told he has been arrested in some other FIR for which no notice was given, which is mandatory under law for the Sections under which he has been arrested… No FIR copy is being given to us despite repeated requests.”
Sinha also tweeted that Zubair was taken to an undisclosed location.
After the medical examination, Zubair is being taken to an undisclosed location. Neither Zubair’s lawyers or I are being told where. We are in the police van with him. No police person is wearing any name tag.
— Pratik Sinha (@free_thinker) June 27, 2022
While the hashtag #IStandWithZubair is gaining traction. India and 12 other countries signed the ‘2022 Resilient Democracies Statement’, which calls for “guarding the freedom, independence and diversity of civil society actors” and “protecting the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline.”
Strongly condemn the arrest of journalist and Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair by Delhi Police. This is shameful and unacceptable.
What an irony that the person who made hate speech is roaming free while the journalist who uncovered it is detained.#IStandWithZubair pic.twitter.com/ZeacrZM2MJ
— Dr. M.K. Muneer (@MKMUNEER) June 27, 2022