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Alt-News Co-founder Mohammed Zubair Arrested: Critics Decry Selectively Targeting Journalists, Speech Online

In another blow to online freedom in India, Zubair, a journalist and fact-checker was arrested for a 2018 tweet allegedly “hurting Hindu sentiments”

*Update, 29/6/22, 12:17 pm: On June 28th, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria remanded Zubair to police custody for four days. The custody order suggests that the extension will be used to take Zubair back to his home in Bengaluru, and recover the phone or laptop from which the tweet was posted. Twitter user @balajikijain (that flagged Zubair's tweet) has now deactivated their account. Responding to his arrest, Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres stated that journalists should not be arrested for what they tweet, write, or say. Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, was arrested by the Delhi Police on the evening of June 27th for a four-year-old tweet that allegedly insulted Hindus. Zubair has had multiple FIRs filed against him over the years for his tweets on fact-checking and misinformation in India. Why it matters: On June 26th, under the 2021 IT Rules, the Indian government withheld tweets by American think-tank Freedom House on a report documenting the ‘declining freedom of the Internet in India’.  The Delhi Police’s rushed arrest of Zubair—for a low-stakes tweet based on a movie still—may be emblematic of this larger phenomenon of selective policing of online content. Zubair’s arrest has since been condemned by the Press Club of India, digital news consortium DIGIPUB, the opposition, and sections of the public and civil society for failing to follow due process, throttling free speech online, and targeting journalists. Zubair had originally been called in by the Delhi Police in connection with an FIR lodged against…

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