India court denies bail to journalist arrested over 2018 tweet
confused_me / Pixabay
India court denies bail to journalist arrested over 2018 tweet

The Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate Court Saturday denied bail to Mohammed Zubair, a journalist and co-founder of Alt News, a fact-checking website. The Delhi police arrested him on June 27 on charges of hurting religious sentiments and inciting enmity in a 2018 tweet.

Previously, on Tuesday, the court had ordered Zubair’s detention in police custody for four days. He was brought before the court on the expiry of this period. While denying his bail application, the court ordered his detention in judicial custody for fourteen days.

Zubair was arrested over a complaint against his 2018 tweet depicting a Hindi film still which showed the name of a hotel as ‘Hanuman Hotel’ instead of ‘Honeymoon Hotel’. Hanuman is a Hindu god. The First Information Report (FIR) against Zubair stated his words and the picture were “highly provocative.”

The Delhi police have added charges of criminal conspiracy and evidence destruction under Sections 120B and 201, respectively, of the Indian Penal Code and under Section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) for allegedly receiving donations from Pakistan and Syria. The Delhi police said that further investigation on these charges was necessary.

Zubair’s advocate, Vrinda Grover, denied these allegations stating the alleged funds were received by his company and not by his personal bank account. Grover also argued the police had not yet shared evidence from electronic devices seized from Zubair, leading to a “real likelihood” of tampering by the authorities.

She further submitted that while several Twitter users had shared the picture in question, only Zubair was targeted. She also pointed out that no direction had been given to Twitter to take the image down. She contended his arrest was not required since all evidence was in the police’s custody.

The police stated these charges were only being investigated, and it may even drop some offenses or add others at the final stage.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, when asked about Zubair’s arrest, responded that journalists should be able to freely express themselves without the threat of any harassment.

Several international organizations and national press associations have condemned Zubair’s arrest.