The most of his time has been spent travelling between jails and courts for the past ten days, according to India’s top fact-checker and journalist Mohammed Zubair, who recently brought attention to the ruling party spokeswoman Nupur Sharma’s divisive remarks against the Prophet Muhammad. Since his arrest, the police have moved him back and forth between a Delhi courtroom and a remote town on the India-Nepal border for investigations. This was done as more and more charges against him were brought against him.
He was detained by Delhi police on June 27 for “insulting Hindu religious beliefs” in a tweet from 2018. Later, they brought forth further accusations against him, including criminal conspiracy, evidence destruction, and receiving foreign payments. Days later, authorities in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, seized possession of him.
They claimed he called three Hindu religious leaders who were shown in films using hate speech, instigating violence against Muslims, or threatening to rape Muslim women “offensive terms – hatemongers.” After learning that he was receiving death threats, the Supreme Court granted him a five-day temporary release on Friday in the case.
However, the 39-year-old will continue to be detained until he receives a bail decision in the initial case that led to his arrest by Delhi police.
In order to combat fake news, Mr. Zubair, a telecoms expert located in Bangalore, India’s southernmost metropolis, co-founded Alt News with former software programmer Pratik Sinha in 2017. The website has been instrumental in dispelling myths and misinformation regarding religion, caste, and other topics during the past five years.
SINCE ITS LAUNCH IN 2017, ALT NEWS HAS AMASSED OVER 3,000 ARTICLES THAT HAVE RECEIVED OVER 60 MILLION VIEWS.
This is especially true given that Alt News focuses on fake videos and messages that target India’s minority Muslim community. In court, Mr. Zubair claimed that he was detained due to his line of employment and his Muslim faith.
There was no case against the fact-checker, according to Colin Gonsalves, a lawyer for the Supreme Court who represented Mr. Zubair in the top court on Friday, who also said that “he’s a pain in the side for the government since he’s taking on hate crimes alone.”
Police claim to be looking into questionable foreign payments in his bank account; he has refuted this claim.
Activists, journalists, and opposition leaders have criticised Mr. Zubair’s arrest, alleging that he is being targeted because he frequently calls out religious bigots and hatemongers.
Critics point to Mr. Zubair’s imprisonment as the most recent in a long line of notable Indian activists, thinkers, and journalists who have been detained, as well as to India’s rapidly declining position in the World Press Freedom Index. In a recent study, it was stated that there was “increasing pressure on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line” and that “journalists who don’t do so are detained and incarcerated.”
Mr. Gonsalves thinks that Mr. Zubair ought to have received a medal for his contributions to the country rather than being imprisoned. “His conclusions show that just one individual can give the hatemongers so much anxiety; think if there were ten like him there; the hatemongers would then have nowhere to escape,” said the author.
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