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Germany concerned about India detaining Muslim journalist

Jenipher Camino Gonzalez
July 7, 2022

Berlin said that journalists should not be "persecuted and imprisoned" for their work after India detained Muslim reporter Mohammed Zubair. But Delhi said uninformed comments were not helpful.

Zubair pictured wearing a face mask and a baseball hat
Zubair (center) was recently arrested, allegedly over a tweet from 2018Image: Hindustan Times/IMAGO

Germany on Wednesday expressed concern over the detention of Muslim journalist Mohammed Zubair, saying that the importance of press freedom "also applies to India."

"Free reporting is beneficial to any society and restrictions are a cause for concern," German foreign ministry spokesman Christian Wagner said during a press conference.

"Journalists should not be persecuted and imprisoned for what they say and write," Wagner said, adding that the German embassy in India was "monitoring this very closely."

He added that Germany would work with its EU partners on the ground, incorporating the issue in their ongoing dialogue with India.

"Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are a focus of those discussions with India," Wagner said.

Who is Mohammed Zubair?

Zubair was arrested in India's capital city of New Delhi for a 2018 tweet that allegedly hurt religious sentiments. He is accused of violating the country's law on religious harmony.

Mohammed Zubair, pictured with sunglasses
Zubair is a vocal critic of Narendra Modi's conservative governmentImage: twitter.com/zoo_bear

The Muslim journalist is the co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News and has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

Zubair also routinely calls out hate speech by Hindu fringe groups on the internet and writes about the marginalization of India's Muslim minority.

India says criticism is 'unhelpful'

Zubair was arrested days after bringing international attention to controversial remarks made by a ruling party official against Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Critics have said that his arrest is a part of a larger crackdown on free speech in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Indian government has denied this. On Thursday, Delhi swiftly reacted to the German ministry spokesman's comments, saying Zubair's case was a domestic issue.

"Let me emphasize that there is a judicial process underway in this case," Arindam Bagchi of India's foreign ministry said, adding that he did not think it would be appropriate for him "or anyone else" to comment on the matter.

"The independence of our judiciary is well recognized and uninformed comments are unhelpful and should be avoided," he added.