The Press Club of India (PCI) and Editors Guild of India (EGi) condemned the arbitrary arrest of Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of AltNews by Delhi police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments, describing the arrest as “highly provocative”.
The fact-checking website’s co-founder was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on June 27 on charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and deliberate acts to outrage religious feeling of the Indian Penal Code.
Following the arrest, PCI said it is ironic that his arrest came on a day when India joined G7 and four other countries to protect free speech “online and offline”, and commitments “to protect freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and promoting inter-faith dialogue”, with the Prime Minister of India attending the G7 meet in Germany.
The PCI has demanded that AltNews co-founder be released by the Delhi Police immediately, saying that, “The the action by the Delhi Police in hastily arresting Muhammad Zubair showed the blatant violation of the country’s commitment on the global platform given by none other than the Prime Minister himself.”
“Are the Union Home Ministryand Delhi Police not on the same page with the Prime Minister on the commitment to freedom of expression?” questioned PCI in their statement.
Freedom of Expression is an essential ingredient of democracy. India signed “2022 Resilient Democracies Statement” only yesterday at G7 summit in Germany which reiterated the commitment to guarding the freedom, independence and diversity of civil society actors and protecting the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline, said PCI.
“As a fact-checking site AltNews was acting as an instrument to cut through the jungle of disinformation which was being spread through fake news with an aim to create fissures in the society. Constant vigilance is the price which we pay for being a vibrant, diverse and largest democracy in the world and AltNews was fulfilling that role. It is saddening to know that Muhammad Zubair had to pay the price for vigilance by his uncalled for arrest for a post made in 2018”, stated PCI demanding immediate release of Mohammed Zubair.
EGi demanding immediate release of Mohammed Zubair for a tweet from 2018, in a statement issued on Tuesday stated it is “necessary to buttress the commitments made by PM Modi in the G7 summit in Germany”.
EGi, calling the arrest of Zubair under sections 153 and 295 of the Indian Penal Code disturbing, said, his website AltNews have done exemplary work over the past few years in identifying fake news and countering disinformation campaigns, in a very objective and factual manner.
It went on to say in the statement that Muhammad Zubair’s “exposure of toxic remarks of the ruling party spokesperson on a TV channel that allowed the party to make amends”.