First Teesta Setalvad, now Mohammed Zubair!

Police called the Alt-News co-founder in for questioning in a 2020 case but then arrested him for a 2018 tweet

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Delhi police arrested yet another journalist, AltNews Co-Founder Mohammed Zubair, on June 27, 2022 based on a tweet posted in 2018. A cyber unit arrested Zubair for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. This is just two days after activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad was picked up by the Gujarat ATS on June 25.

The complaint filed by social media user ‘Hanuman Bhakt’ included charges such as promoting enmity between different groups and malicious acts to outrage religious feelings. This is already the sixth FIR against the journalist over the last two years.Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha tweeted that although the police sought seven days of police custody, the duty magistrate allowed custody for only one day with half an hour visitation for the lawyer.

Sinha also pointed out how the police rushed Zubair to the magistrate’s house in Burari on late Monday night rather than bring him to a regular court on June 28, asking, “I wonder, why is the Delhi police in such [a] tearing hurry to bring Zubair all the way from Dwarka to the residence of a duty magistrate in Burari at this hour? Why not just produce him before the regular court tomorrow before the 24 hours end that is not till tomorrow afternoon?”

On Monday, the cyber police called Zubair from Bengaluru for investigation in a 2020 case. In September 2020, Zubair was booked under the POCSO Act after he responded to an abusive message from a Twitter user. Later, the High Court gave him protection against an arrest. However, this time the police said that the journalist was arrested under a different FIR without prior notice.

Narrating the whole ordeal on social media, Sinha said that the police failed to produce a copy of the FIR or remand application. After a medical examination, Zubair was taken to an undisclosed location in a police van although “no police person [was] wearing any name tag,” tweeted Sinha.

The DIGIPUB News India Foundation condemned the arrest, recollecting how he was previously booked for calling three Hindutva supremacists “hatemongers”.

“In a democracy, where every individual possesses the right to exercise the freedom of speech and expression, it is unjustifiable that such stringent laws are being used as tools against journalists, who have been accorded the role of playing watchdog against the misuse of the institutions of the state,” said the DIGIPUB in their statement.

Meanwhile, DCP (Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Operations – IFSO) K. P. S. Malhotra said, in a press release, that Zubair had tweeted a questionable image of God Hanuman with a purpose to “deliberately insult the god of a particular religion.” The statement said that such tweets cater to a brigade of social media entities, who indulge in insult mongering, possibly injuring communal harmony.

Further, he said that when the cyber united was notified about the “objectionable tweet” and his followers’ attempts to create “a series of debates/ hate mongering”, officers questioned him and found his role objectionable.

“He was evasive on the questions and neither provided the necessary technical equipment for the purpose of the investigation nor cooperated in the investigation… During investigation, the conduct of Mohammed Zubair was found questionable, which warranted his custodial interrogation to unravel the conspiracy in this matter,” said Malhotra.

Zubair was among the first people to point out suspended BJP Spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s comments against Prophet Mohammed and Islam during a Times Now debate. The hate speech spewed by Sharma sparked widespread protests not only within India but caused outrage among the Gulf countries as well.

Now, Zubair’s arrest coupled with earlier arrests of Setalvad and former Gujarat State DGP R. B. Sreekumar has sparked considerable anger among the activist, journalist groups and even politicians.



While Zubair was arrested for the 2018 tweet, Setalvad and Sreekumar were arrested for criminal conspiracy and forgery following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the Zakia Jafri case. Both these instances have been viewed by citizens as an example of muzzling dissent. Accordingly, youth groups also voice their solidarity with Zubair. Solidarity art is being shared with hashtags like “Free Zubair” or “Stand With Zubair”.



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How are religious sentiments hurt when blatant hate speech is exposed by a journalist?
BJP dumps spokesperson Nupur Sharma, Naveen K. Jindal in damage control move
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