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India rejects German criticism on press freedom

Shakeel Sobhan
July 8, 2022

Germany had expressed concern over the detention of Muslim journalist Mohammed Zubair. He was arrested over a satirical tweet posted in 2018.

Indien | Mohammed Zubair | Journalist
Image: Hindustan Times/IMAGO

India on Thursday rejected the German Foreign Ministry's comments on press freedom in India and the arrest of fact-checker Mohammed Zubair, various media reports said.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) asserted that it was an internal matter and unnecessary to comment on as it was a matter addressed by the justice system.

"It is a domestic issue. Let me emphasize that there is a judicial process underway in this case and I don't think it would be appropriate for me, or anyone else, to comment on a case that is sub-judice," Arindam Bagchi, MEA spokesperson said. "I think the independence of our judiciary is well recognized and uninformed comments are unhelpful and should be avoided."

Germany voices worry

Germany on Wednesday expressed concern over the detention of Muslim journalist Mohammed Zubair. It emphasized the importance of press freedom and pointed out how it "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 in 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.

Fact-checker's arrest

Zubair, a co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News, was arrested on June 27 following a complaint by a Twitter user over a satirical tweet posted in 2018. The Twitter user accused him of mocking a Hindu god.

His arrest was condemned by supporters as a politically motivated attempt to silence a government critic and harass him due to his journalism.

Zubair, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, has been at the forefront of calling out disinformation and hate speech in India and highlighting the concerns of the country's Muslim minority.

The arrest came only days after he brought international attention to controversial remarks made by a ruling party official against Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

On Thursday, Zubair was sent to six days' police custody by a court in Uttar Pradesh for calling some religious leaders "hate mongers" in a tweet, according to media reports.

Edited by: Sean Sinico