Freedom of expression in India under threat
The press and human rights groups describe the arrest of Muhammed Zubair, co-founder of Alt News, a fact-checking website, as a new low for freedom of expression in India. Zubair was arrested last week, following a complaint by a Twitter user, over a satirical tweet he posted in 2018, allegedly mocking the Hindu god Hanuman.
The tweet in question is a photo of the Honeymoon Hotel with its name changed to read Hanuman Hotel. Another Twitter user recently retweeted it, calling it an insult to his religious sentiments.
Sanjay Kapoor, Secretary-General of the Editors Guild of India, said ‘The arrest is extremely disturbing. Zubair was active in tackling disinformation in the last few years. This made him a direct target of fake-news generators, there are signs suggesting this intolerance has grown in scale and intensity in the wake of the present right-wing government’s rise to power with its strict definition of nationalism.’
The arrest came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was attending the G7 summit, where participating countries, including India, pledged to protect freedom of expression.
The countries signed the 2022 Resilient Democracies Statement, in which they committed to ‘guarding the freedom, independence and diversity of civil society actors’ and ‘protecting the freedom of expression and opinion online and offline’.