Kashmir Parties Slam Arrest of Alt News Co-founder
Image Courtesy: IANS
Srinagar: Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) severely criticised the arrest of journalist and fact-checking website Alt News cofounder Mohammad Zubair on Tuesday with former chief minister (CM) Mehbooba Mufti terming it “criminalising the truth”.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of a community and promoting enmity in a March 2018 tweet. The arrest came days after Zubair highlighted a video clip of now-suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national spokesperson Nupur Sharma in which she is shown making derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad during a TV debate.
Initially called for questioning in a 2020 case in which the court had already granted him protection against arrest, he was arrested based on a complaint by a police officer who had noticed a post by the Twitter handle @balajikijaiin objecting to Zubair’s tweet. According to the post, Zubair’s tweet carried a “questionable” image, a frame from late Hrishikesh Mukherje’s 1983 movie Kissi Se Na Kehna, to “deliberately insult the god of a particular religion”.
Zubair’s arrest sparked outrage, including on social media platforms, like Twitter, where he had become quite popular for debunking fake news.
Linking the journalist’s arrest to the situation in J&K, Peoples Democratic Party president Mufti, said that the “same model is now being enforced all over India”. “Ironic that the day India joins G7 to protect free speech, an effective fact checker (sic) like @zoo_bear is arrested on frivolous charges. Criminalising the truth was initiated right after illegal (sic) abrogation of Article 370 in J&K & the same model is now being enforced all over India,” she tweeted.
Ironic that the day India joins G7 to protect free speech, an effective fact checker like @zoo_bear is arrested on frivolous charges. Criminalising the truth was initiated right after illegal abrogation of Article 370 in J&K & the same model is now being enforced all over India.
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) June 28, 2022
National Conference (NC) spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar told Newsclick that while people like “Sharma, Yati Narsinghanand, Naveen Kumar Jindal [now-expelled BJP Delhi media head] and others who openly made hate speeches are not arrested, those who expose them are arrested”.
“Exposing bigotry, hate speech and religious intolerance are some of the ‘crimes’ Zubair seems to have committed,” added Dar.
Drawing a comparison between Zubair and Jindal, NC vice-president Omar Abdullah also lashed out at the government for being selective in taking action against those accused of “hurting” religious sentiments.
“Only one of these tweets will get you arrested for hurting religious sentiments & no prizes for guessing which one. There isn’t even the pretence of equality under law any longer,” the former tweeted.
Only one of these tweets will get you arrested for hurting religious sentiments & no prizes for guessing which one. There isn’t even the pretence of equality under law any longer. pic.twitter.com/BKGPgQ8LKN
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) June 27, 2022
CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that the Narendra Modi government uses “strong-arm” tactics to muzzle the voice of those who expose its “false propaganda and hate speech”.
“The central dispensation wants to create a smokescreen by peddling lies and misinformation merely to hide its failures on a host of issues, including political and economic,” the senior leader said. Terming it as “very unfortunate”, Tarigami added that journalists like Zubair who highlight the truth and hold a mirror to the government are being “witch-hunted” and booked under “flimsy” charges while the “hate mongers” are roaming freely.
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