Journalists anywhere in the world should not be jailed for what they write, tweet or say, a spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday while commenting on the arrest of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair.
“...In any place around the world, it is very important that people be allowed to express themselves freely, journalists be allowed to express themselves freely and without the threat of any harassment,” the spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said in response to questions during a media briefing.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday on charges of hurting religious sentiments for a tweet that he had posted in March 2018.
The first information report against him was based on a complaint by Delhi Police Sub-Inspector Arun Kumar, who said he was monitoring social media when he came across the March 2018 tweet after a handle named Hanuman Bhakt raised objections.
The account had posted only one message on the microblogging site until Monday evening and had only three followers.
The user had taken objection to Zubair’s tweet, showing a hotel signboard with the name “Honeymoon Hotel” repainted to “Hanuman Hotel”. Social media users, however, pointed out that the image Zubair had posted is from a 1983 Hindi film.
Several media organisations have criticised Zubair’s arrest and called for his unconditional release.
“The arrest of journalist Mohammad Zubair marks another low for press freedom in India, where the government has created a hostile and unsafe environment for members of the press reporting on sectarian issues,” Steven Butler, the South Asia program coordinator for United States-based non-profit organisation Committee to Protect Journalists, said.
Aakar Patel, the chair of board for Amnesty International India, said that authorities are targeting Zubair for his “crucial work” in combatting disinformation and calling out discrimination against minorities.
“The arrest of Mohammed Zubair shows the danger facing human rights defenders in India has reached a crisis point,” he said.
Patel added that the Alt News co-founder’s arrest is “is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, abuse of power by the authorities and sends a message that dissent is not tolerated in the country”.