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India: Arrest of journalist Mohammed Zubair a 'clear abuse of power' by authorities

Co-founder of independent fact-checking website ALT News arrested by New Delhi police last night

Accused of tweets which ‘hurt religious sentiments’ and ‘promote enmity’

‘The arrest of Mohammed Zubair highlights how the danger facing human rights defenders in India has reached crisis point’ - Aakar Patel

Responding to the arrest of the Indian journalist Mohammed Zubair by police in New Delhi late on Monday night (27 June) for supposedly “hurting religious sentiments” and “promoting enmity” on Twitter, Aakar Patel, Chair of International India, said:

“The Indian authorities are targeting Mohammed Zubair for his crucial work combatting the rise in fake news and disinformation and calling out discrimination against minorities.

“His arrest highlights how the danger facing human rights defenders in India has reached crisis point.

“The fact that he was detained incommunicado during the initial hours following his arrest shows just how brazen the Indian authorities have become.

“Harassment, intimidation, unlawful and arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment of human rights defenders for seeking truth and justice has become alarmingly commonplace in India.

“We call on the Delhi Police to immediately and unconditionally release Mohammed Zubair and end their relentless harassment of journalists, human rights defenders and activists.

“His arrest is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, an abuse of power by the authorities and sends a message that dissent is not tolerated in the country.”

The crime of publishing a tweet

Last night (27 June), Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of independent fact-checking website ALT News, was taken into custody for “promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”.

He was also charged with “outraging religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” under the Indian Penal Code for his satirical tweets criticising rising censorship and calling out discrimination against minorities during the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Pratik Sinha, another employee of ALT News, was present at the police station with Zubair and tweeted that they had not been given a copy of the First Information Report - an important document prepared by police In India as the authorities begin the process of an investigation - and that New Delhi police were taking Zubair to an undisclosed location.

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