Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of fact checking website Alt News, was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday, June 27. Alt news, co-founded by Zubair and Pratik Sinha, in 2017 has been working to combat fake news and counter incorrect narratives.
Some of the false narratives which Alt News has debunked include the “tukde tukde gang” term used against JNU students and critics, portrayal of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors and also during the northeast Delhi riots, to name a few.
While his platform goes through constant scrutiny, Zubair faces a lot of it himself as he is vocal on social media – his reach makes not just the platform he created a nuisance, but he himself.
The arrest comes based on Twitter posts, with charges for “promoting enmity” and “hurting religious sentiments”, which the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of Cyber Cell has filed under sections 153 and 295 of IPC. Zubair has time and again been targeted by the right wing for calling out hate speech, propaganda, and those who instigate enmity.
Zubair was reportedly called in for questioning on a case pertaining to 2020 where POCSO charges against him were filed. He had responded to an abusive message from a Twitter user whose display picture featured a child. Zubair, blurred the child’s face posting the image asking the man, “Does your cute grand daughter know about your part time job of abusing people on social media? I suggest you to change your profile pic.”
But his recent tweets suggest Twitter was removing posts, which he alleged was “at the behest of government of India”.
On June 22, he had also tweeted a screenshot with a mail from Twitter which said, “Twitter has received a request from Government of India regarding my Twitter account. It claims that my account violates the law(s) of India.”
As recently as June 26, in a tweet, he had written about receiving an email from Twitter which said, “In order to comply with Twitter’s obligations under India’s local laws, it has withheld this tweet in India under IT Act.” He went on to point out that while no action had been taken against the person who gave the hate speech, the government did not want people to see the video.
The video was of right wing group Sri Ram Sena’s National President Pramod Muthalik telling Hindus to stop doing business with Muslims. Zubair, also retweeted posts from April 2 of this year which showed Bajrang Muni, a Mahant threatening to kidnap and rape Muslim women — threats made in front of a Masjid in Sitapur.
This also serves as an example of the right wing crying foul as he pointed out such hatred and called for their arrests. In this incident he had also highlighted how despite police personnel’s presence, the threats were allowed to be spoken.
He had also been outspoken against now former spokesperson of the BJP, Nupur Sharma, and her offensive comments against Prophet Mohammed.