Fact-checking website AltNews’ co-founder Muhammad Zubair was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on June 27.
The Editors Guild of India on June 28 termed as “extremely disturbing” the arrest of AltNews co-founder Muhammad Zubair on charges of hurting religious sentiments, and demanded his immediate release.
“It is apparent that AltNews‘ alert vigilance was resented by those who use disinformation as a tool to polarise society and rake nationalist sentiments,” the Guild said in a statement in New Delhi.
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 feelings.
“Zubair has been arrested under Sections 153 and 295 of the Indian Penal Code. 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,” the Guild said.
It demanded that the Delhi Police should immediately release Zubair.
Zubair was arrested for a 2018 tweet that was "highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feelings of hatred" among people, a Delhi Police First Information Report (FIR) had said.
The Special Cell of the Delhi Police arrested him on Monday on charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and deliberate acts to outrage religious feelings.
In the tweet, Zubair shared a clip from legendary filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee's 1983 classic Kissi Se Na Kehna.
In its FIR against Zubair, the police said the words and the picture he used in a 2018 tweet “against a particular religious community and are highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite a feeling of hatred among people”.
The FIR says the complainant in the case, a police sub-inspector, was monitoring social media when he came across Twitter user @balajikijaiin’s post seeking action against Zubair’s tweet, which said: “BEFORE 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel.” The tweet was posted with an image of the hotel’s signboard.
Pointing to commitments made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the G7 meeting in Germany to ensure a resilient democracy by protecting online and offline content, it said his release would support India's position.
“This is necessary to buttress the commitments made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the G7 meet in Germany to ensure a resilient democracy by protecting online and offline content,” the Guild statement said.