The arrest of Mohammad Zubair, a co-founder of AltNews, on suspicion of injuring religious emotions, was described as “very distressing” by the Editors Guild of India on Tuesday, and they requested his immediate release.
The Guild said in a statement that “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 co-founder of the fact-checking website was detained by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on Monday on suspicion of encouraging animosity amongst various groups based on religion and engaging in intentional acts to incite religious sentiment in violation of the Indian Penal Code.
“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 Zubair’s immediate release from custody by the Delhi Police.
The Guild released a statement that said, “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.”
Zubair’s detention had already been denounced by a group of digital news media outlets, who demanded that the Delhi Police withdraw their charges against him right away.
It is unacceptable that such strict laws are used as weapons against journalists, who have been given the responsibility of acting as watchdogs against the misuse of state institutions, in a democracy where everyone has the right to exercise their freedom of speech and expression, according to a DIGIPUB statement.