News & Politics
Human rights defenders and journalists at a program in Dhaka demanded the immediate release of Mohammed Zubair, an Indian journalist who co-founded the fact-checking website AltNews, following his arrest last Monday by a cyber unit of Delhi Police.
It followed a sustained campaign against Zubair on India's rightwing media for weeks, that sought to dig through his entire tweet history and highlight anything that might be deemed offensive.
They found their best bet in a tweet from 2018, in which Zubair had posted a screengrab from a 1983 Bollywood filman old movie on his Twitter handle in 2018 that was deemed derogatory against Hinduism, which was the reason behind Zubair's arrest, claimed his lawyer Vrinda Grover.
After arresting Zubair, the Indian authority also seized his laptop. Vrinda Grover claimed that his laptop has nothing to do with the case, as the Indian media report. The lawyer argued that Zubair is targeted for his "name, faith and profession".
"Zubair was arrested just for uncovering the truth," Nur Khan Liton, a human rights defender, told media after attending a human chain in Dhaka on Sunday demanding immediate release of Zubair. "And the journalists in Bangladesh often suffer from the Digital Security Act as well. As human rights defenders, we want to stand by every victim of human rights violations around the globe."
In 2017, Zubair co-founded AltNews with Pratik Sinha, which is today regarded as one of the biggest fact-checking websites in the world.
"They (Indian authorities) say that they arrested Zubair for a Tweet insulting to religion. It's not true," Arifuzzaman Tuhin, a journalist based in Dhaka said. "He was actually arrested so that he cannot check the facts."
Many in India remain convinced that the concerted campaign against Zubair was a reaction to him flagging the video of Nupur Sharma, the firebrand national spokesperson of the ruling BJP, from a tv appearance in May where she is seen speaking disrespectfully about Prophet Muhammad.
It caused an uproar that soon went international, as New Delhi's important allies in the Gulf, led by Qatar, took a strong stance on the issue. Eventually, the BJP had to fire Sharma from her post to handle the fallout.
Zubair was arrested based on a complaint made by a police officer. According to the local media, the police officer filed the complaint after noticing an objection to Zubair's 2018 Tweet by a Twitter user.
Senior officials of the Delhi Police told ANI that the arrest was made based on the complaint of a Twitter user Hanuman Bhakt @ balajikijaiin who tagged the Delhi Police in the four-year-old tweet by Zubair.
On Saturday, Zubair was produced before the Delhi court after a five-day police remand. The court has denied a bail plea made by Zubair's lawyer. He, instead, is sent to jail for 14-day judicial custody.
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