Action malafide, release Zubair: IJU

NEW DELHI, 28 Jun: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned in the strongest of terms the arrest of Muhammad Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News.
“His arrest by the Delhi Police smacks of malafide as it comes for his post in 2018, claimed by a Twitter handle to be ‘hurting religious sentiments,” the union said, and called for his immediate release “as the action is clearly intended not only to intimidate and harass Zubair but also hit out at AltNews, which is doing yeoman service in checking fake news and disinformation.”
According to reports, Zubair was called in for questioning on Monday in a 2020 case, for which he had protection against arrest from the Delhi High Court, but a cyber unit of the Delhi Police filed an FIR against Zubair under IPC Sections 153 A and 295 A. “This following a complainant going by Twitter name Hanuman Bhakt, which has only 400 followers and for a post four years ago,” it said.
In a statement, IJU President Geetartha Pathak and Secretary-General Sabina Inderjit said that the arrest of Zubair “is yet another blatant attack on press freedom and a continuation of witch-hunting by the government to silence independent media and critics. Why is the Delhi Police, which is under the home ministry, applying double standards?” asked the union “as on one hand it chooses not to file an FIR and arrest Nupur Sharma, whose remarks actually amounted to ‘hurting religious sentiments’, and on another unleashes vendetta against journalists doing their job.”
The IJU also noted that it was ironical that the action on Zubair came on the same day that Prime Minister Modi addressed the G7 meet “and a signatory to the pact which seeks to improve resilience of democratic societies, protect press freedom and free speech online and offline.”
The IJU said that, “insofar as the media is concerned, there is an undeclared state of emergency in the state as ruling dispensations are clamping down on voices speaking truth to power. It demanded that the fourth estate be allowed to do its job and Zubair be released immediately.
“Else the world’s largest democracy will further go down in world ranking,” the IJU said.