AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair

The Editors Guild of India on June 28 termed as “extremely disturbing” the arrest of AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair on charges of hurting religious sentiments, and demanded his immediate release.

“It is apparent that AltNews’ alert vigilance was resented by those who use disinformation as a tool to polarise society and rake nationalist sentiments,” the Guild said in a statement.

The fact-checking website’s co-founder was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi Police on June 27 on charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and deliberate acts to outrage religious feeling of the Indian Penal Code.

“Zubair has been arrested under sections 153 and 295 of the Indian Penal Code. This is extremely disturbing because Zubair and his website AltNews have done some exemplary work over the past few years in identifying fake news and countering disinformation campaigns, in a very objective and factual manner,” the Guild said.

It demanded that the Delhi Police should immediately release Zubair.

“This is necessary to buttress the commitments made by prime minister Narendra Modi in the G7 meet in Germany to ensure a resilient democracy by protecting online and offline content,” the Guild statement said.

Earlier, DIGIPUB News India Foundation, a body of digital news media organisations had condemned Zubair’s arrest and asked the Delhi Police to withdraw the case against him immediately. The News Mill is also a part of DIGIPUB News India Foundation.

“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 institutions of the state,” a DIGIPUB statement said.

DIGIPUB urges the Delhi Police to withdraw the case immediately. The use of such stringent laws being used as tools against journalists who are considered the fourth pillar of democracy must be stopped. We stand with Zubair, the statement said.

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