Opposition parties on Monday condemned the arrest of AltNews co-founder Mohammed Zubair and hit out at the BJP-led government, accusing it of clamping down on those who “expose” its hate speech and fake propaganda.
The Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, the Left parties, RJD, National Conference and the AIMIM slammed the Centre and accused it of not acting against those who make hate speeches and, instead, targeting those who report such hate campaigns.
The Intelligence Fusion & Strategic Operations unit of Delhi Police arrested Zubair on Monday, days after registering an FIR based on a complaint by a man who had tagged Delhi Police on social media, alleging that Zubair hurt his religious sentiments and legal action should be taken against him.
“Every person exposing BJP’s hate, bigotry and lies is a threat to them. Arresting one voice of truth will only give rise to a thousand more. Truth always triumphs over tyranny. Daro Mat,” senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
His party colleague Jairam Ramesh said Altnews and Zubair have been in the “forefront of exposing the bogus claims of the Vishguru, who has struck back with a vengeance characteristic of him.” Ramesh added, “Delhi Police, reporting to the Union Home Minister, has long lost any pretensions of professionalism and independence.”
Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien called Zubair “one of the world’s finest journalists who exposes BJP’s fake news factory” every day. Tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, O’Brien tweeted, “for all the power you wield, you are essentially COWARDS.”
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted (translated from Hindi), “Those who trade/deal in lies don’t like the ones who investigate the truth… those who have nurtured people who spew poison of hate.”
Demanding immediate release of Zubair, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that “the Modi government is insecure and threatened by anything that exposes the fake hate machine of misinformation.”
AIMIM leader and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi said Zubair’s arrest is highly condemnable. “He’s been arrested with no notice and in some unknown FIR. Total violation of due process. Delhi Police does nothing about anti-Muslim genocidal slogans but acts swiftly against “crime” of reporting hate speech and countering misinformation,” Owaisi posted on Twitter.
RJD leader and Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha stated: “Making hate speech is no crime but reporting/exposing such speeches are criminal activities and that’s why Zubair has been arrested. And Irony dies hundred deaths… The great LEADER invokes Emergency…”
“Shocked to hear that Zubair has been taken into custody by the Delhi Police. Checking fact from fiction was probably his biggest crime?” Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi posted.
Lok Sabha MP and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor called the arrest an assault on truth. “India’s few fact-checking services, especially AltNews, perform a vital service in our post-truth political environment, rife with disinformation. They debunk falsehoods whoever perpetrates them. To arrest Zubair is an assault on truth. He should be released immediately,” Tharoor stated.
Posting screenshots of Zubair’s tweet concerned and one by a BJP supporter, NC leader and former J&K CM Omar Abdullah 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 pretense of equality under law any longer.”
DIGIPUB, an organisation of digital news media organisations, released a statement “strongly condemning the arrest”. It stated, “…Zubair had previously been booked by Uttar Pradesh Police for calling three Hindutva supremacists ‘hatemongers’ in a tweet. This is not the first time he is being subject to legal harassment. This is the sixth FIR filed against Zubair over the last two years…”
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