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Mainstream, VOL LX No 28, New Delhi, July 2, 2022

Statement by Press Club of India regarding the arrest of arrest of Muhammad Zubair | June 28, 2022

Friday 1 July 2022

PRESS CLUB OF INDIA
WS 1, Raisina Road, New Delhi - 110 001, INDIA 23730248
Email:- pressclubofindia1[at]gmail.com, Web: presscubofindia.org

PRESS STATEMENT

New Delhi, June 28:

The Press Club of India condemns the arrest of Muhammad Zubair, co-founder of AltNews, a fact checking site. The Delhi Police arrested him on June 27 for a tweet of 2018 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

It is ironic that Muhammad Zubair’s arrest by the Delhi Police came on a day when India joined G7 and four other countries to protect free speech ‚Äúonline and offline." Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the G7 meet in Germany where the signatories also committed to ‚Äúprotect freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and promoting inter-faith dialogue."

Freedom of Expression is an essential ingredient of democracy. India signed “2022 Resilient Democracies Statement" only yesterday at G7 summit in Germany which reiterated the commitment to guarding the freedom, independence and diversity of civil society actors and protecting the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline.

It is disturbing that Delhi Police arrested AltNews co-founder around the same time when PM Modi was associating himself with the noble declaration along with world leaders. Are the Union Home Ministry and Delhi Police not on the same page with the Prime Minister on the commitment to freedom of expression?

The action by the Delhi Police in hastily arresting Muhammad Zubair showed the blatant violation of the country’s commitment on the global platform given by none other than the Prime Minister himself.

As a fact-checking site AltNews was acting as an instrument to cut through the jungle of disinformation which was being spread through fake news with an aim to create fissures in the society. Constant vigilance is the price which we pay for being a vibrant, diverse and largest democracy in the world and AltNews was fulfilling that role. It is saddening to know that Muhammad Zubair had to pay the price for vigilance by his uncalled for arrest for a post made in 2018.

It is inexplicable that action is being initiated after years without giving notice for a post which the police describes as “highly provocative." The coercive action defies both the law and common sense.

The PCI demands that AltNews co-founder be released by the Delhi Police immediately.

We also see the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad as very disturbing as it also smacks of vendetta.

Sd/-

Umakant Lakhera, (President), Press Club of India | Vinay Kumar, (Secretary General), Press Club of India

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