A freelance journalist in Andaman and Nicobar Islands was arrested for tweeting on the need to quarantine people for speaking with Covid-positive patients on the phone.
Arrested on Monday evening, the journalist, Zubair Ahmad, was on Tuesday produced in a Port Blair court and granted bail.
Following a report in a local newspaper and information he had gathered over the last few days, Zubair tweeted on Monday, “Can someone explain why families are placed under home quarantine for speaking over phone with Covid patients?” He tagged the Andaman administration and the L-G’s media cell in the tweet.
In another tweet, he wrote, “Request #Covid19 quarantined persons not to call any acquaintance over phone. People are being traced and quarantined on the basis of phone calls.”
Explaining the arrest, DGP, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dependra Pathak told The Indian Express over the phone, “The person concerned started tweeting that the administration is doing (things) wrong. He urged people not to cooperate with the administration at a time when we all are battling the pandemic. We have arrested him and due process of law is being followed.”
He said, “One way of contact-tracing of COVID-positive people is by tracking their phone calls, and after evaluation placing them in home quarantine for 28 days.”
“I just asked the administration a question. Instead of answering me, they arrested me,” Zubair said over the phone after getting bail on Tuesday. He said he had posed questions on other issues on social media, tagging the administration and officers, earlier as well, and “got replies for some (of those questions)”.
As journalists, Zubair said, “We have the right to ask question. But I think they wanted to teach me a lesson, and therefore the arrest.”
DGP Pathak said besides Zubair, cases have been lodged against four others in the last 10 days “for circulating material detrimental to the public in these times”. He said, “We have zero tolerance in such matters. We have (even) lodged cases against wives and relatives of police officers, and even a government officer.”
Besides Section 51 of DM Act (obstruction of government staff and refusing to comply with directions) he was also booked under different IPC Sections. Zubair said: “From news reports and other sources, including journalists, I learnt people are getting quarantined even over phone calls. One journalist was quarantined for speaking over phone to a COVID-positive person.”
Denis Giles, editor of ‘Andaman Chronicle’, a local newspaper, who was present in court with Zubair on Tuesday, said: “We carried a report that a family was quarantined for speaking with a COVID person over phone. Zubair was moved by the issue and that is why he tweeted…”