Fact-checking website Alt News on Monday rejected the Delhi Police’s allegations that it had received funds from foreign sources in violation of regulations.

The organisation said that the claims were categorically false. It made the statement in the context of a first information report against its co-founder Mohammed Zubair, in which the police have accused him of hurting religious sentiments, causing disappearance of evidence, violating foreign funding norms and criminal conspiracy.

The Patiala House court in Delhi on Saturday sent the journalist to judicial custody for 14 days.

“Our payment platform through which we receive donations does not allow receipt of funds from foreign sources and we have received donations from Indian bank accounts only,” Alt News said on Twitter. “All donations collected through these means go to the organisation’s bank account.”

Alt News also dismissed allegations that Zubair received donations in his personal account. The organistion said that individuals associated with it only receive monthly remuneration.

“All of this is an attempt to shut down the very critical work that we do, and we will fight this attempt to shut us down and come out on top,” the statement added.

Police asked to deactivate Alt News’ donations, says payment service provider

Meanwhile, Razorpay told The Hindu on Monday that it had temporarily deactivated Alt News’ account with the online payment service provider after the police requested to do so.

The account had been deactivated “for around a day upon receiving request from police authorities in their ongoing investigation”, the company said, according to the newspaper. “Now, after getting some clarity, we re-activated the company’s account.”

The statement came after Alt News wrote in a tweet on Monday morning that the account had been deactivated and subscribers of the fact-checking website have been unable to give donations “in the last few days”.

Cast against Mohammed Zubair

Zubair was arrested on June 27 evening for a tweet that he had posted in March 2018. The FIR against him was lodged based on a complaint by Delhi Police Sub-Inspector Arun Kumar, who said he was monitoring social media when he came across the 2018 tweet after a handle named Hanuman Bhakt raised objections to it.

The handle had complained about Zubair’s tweet that showed a hotel signboard with the name “Honeymoon Hotel” repainted to “Hanuman Hotel”. The journalist’s lawyer has argued in the court that the photo is a screenshot taken from a 1983 Hindi movie.

The anonymous handle had posted only one message on the microblogging site until June 27 evening and had only three followers. Two days later, a message on the handle read: “This account doesn’t exist.”

However, the handle is now back online and has nearly 2,000 followers.

Several press bodies have criticised Zubair’s arrest and called for his unconditional release. A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on June 28 said that journalists anywhere in the world should not be jailed for what they write, tweet or say.

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