Alt News on Sunday released a statement in support of the organisation’s co-founder Mohammed Zubair, who has been accused of “stalking a minor girl” on Twitter, and said the first information report against him was an attempt to hound him through the “misuse of legal apparatus”.
Two first information reports have been lodged against Zubair, one in Delhi and another in Raipur, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act for the alleged online harassment and torture of a minor girl. The police’s action came after it received a complaint from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
In its police complaint, the child rights panel alleged the incident took place on August 6, when Zubair responded to an abusive message from Twitter user Jagdish Singh, who uses the handle @JSINGH2252. He posted Singh’s display picture, which features a little girl who is perhaps his granddaughter. Zubair blurred her face in the image posted.
“Hello Jagdish Singh,” he said. “Does your cute grand daughter know about your part time job of abusing people on social media? I suggest you to change your profile pic.”
The rights panel took cognisance of the doxing, which involves publishing private or identifying information about a particular individual on the Internet, after it reportedly received several complaints regarding Zubair’s tweet. Two other Twitter users, with the usernames de_real_mask and syedsarwar20, have also been named in the FIRs.
In a statement on Sunday, Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha dismissed the allegations. “An attempt is being made to hound co-founder of Alt News, Mohammed Zubair, through misuse of legal apparatus,” Sinha said. “Alt News stands by Mohammed Zubair. Zubair has been in the forefront of fighting fake narratives, and his work hurts those who have weaponized misinformation to subvert the Indian democracy.”
Earlier on Saturday, Zubair had called the complaint “absolutely frivolous”. “I will be responding to it legally,” he had said.
National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had acted on a complaint filed by Forum for Indigenous Rights-North-East India. The commission then wrote to the Delhi deputy commissioner of police and the nodal cyber cell officer, seeking action against Zubair for “stalking of a minor girl on Twitter”.
Raipur Superintendent of Police Ajay Yadav said prima facie there were some comments that could be classified as harassment. “We have registered the FIR against the three Twitter handles but investigation work is still going on,” he added.