In court, the journalist arrested over a 2018 tweet points out the differences between him and others who also tweeted the same post
Police bring Mohammad Zubair, co-founder of Alt News, to the Patiala House Courts, in New Delhi, on Tuesday. Pic/ANI
A court on Tuesday extended by four days the custodial interrogation of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, arrested in a case related to an “objectionable tweet” on a Hindu deity he posted in 2018. The Delhi police, in court, claimed his “objectionable tweet of 2018 led to a Twitter storm with hate speeches, detrimental to communal harmony”.
Arguing against his custody, the fact-checker’s lawyer told the court that many social media users had tweeted the same post, but only he was targeted by police. The difference, his counsel said, was his faith, name and profession.
Delhi police arrested Zubair on Monday and booked him under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between religious groups) and 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class) of the IPC. On Section 153A, his advocate Vrinda Grover argued on his behalf, “The entire case borders on absurdity. Police say they were alerted to this tweet, but this tweet is dated March 2018. Section 153 A needs two communities, which are the two communities here? This clip is from a 1983 movie that was cleared by the censor board”, as per an NDTV report.
Delhi cops take Muhammad Zubair to court, on Tuesday. Pic/PTI
The Indian Express quoted her as saying, “This image shown as a reason for arresting someone comes from a Hindi cinema image. This is an image of a Rishikesh Mukherjee film. Not a place of worship. This is a joke on the honeymooners. Where is the damage? Prima facie where is the case? Yes I am journalist, have a Twitter following and speak my mind in an independent country. See the anonymous Twitter handle. That opens only in 2021. He says this is offensive to Hindus. The entire case borders on absurdity.”
The police action came weeks after he flagged former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s derogatory remarks on Prophet Muhammad, as per an a Hindustan Times report. Condemning the action against Zubair, activists and Opposition leaders said it was “absolute hypocrisy” of the government that his arrest came on a day India committed at the G7 Summit to defend democratic principles and protect the freedom of expression.
The Editors Guild of India demanded his immediate release. “This is extremely disturbing because Zubair and his website AltNews have done some exemplary work over the past few years in identifying fake news and countering disinformation campaigns, in a very objective and factual manner,” it said in a statement.
Aakar Patel, chair of board, Amnesty International India, said, “The fact that he was not provided a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) and was detained incommunicado during the initial hours following his arrest shows just how brazen the Indian authorities have become.”
D Raja, CPI leader
Hate-mongers of the right are getting patronage from rulers. So-called fringe elements who brought disrepute to the country are being protected. Young journalists like Zubair, who are working to protect the scientific temper of the country, are behind bars. Condemnable!
Delhi police should immediately release Zubair. This is necessary to buttress the commitments made by PM Modi in the G7 meet in Germany to ensure a resilient democracy by protecting online and offline content.
Aakar Patel, chair of board, Amnesty International India
Mohammed Zubair’s arrest shows the danger facing human rights defenders in India has reached a crisis point. Harassment, intimidation, unlawful and arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment of human rights defenders for tirelessly seeking truth and justice has become alarmingly commonplace in India.
Duration of Zubair’s custody for interrogation
Year the tweet in question was posted