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India/Media repressionBack
[Published: Wednesday August 03 2022]

 India’s War on Free Press Is in High Gear, Time

MUMBAY, INDIA - Arrested for an innocuous meme he tweeted four years ago, more than a hundred policemen surrounded Mohammed Zubair when he was brought before a magistrate. “It was a message, making an example of me, that they could treat you as a criminal,” he tells TIME magazine. 
Independent journalism is being made a de facto crime in what is supposed to be the world’s biggest democracy, with Zubair the latest offender. 
The 40-year-old co-founder and editor of fact-checking website Alt News was arrested on June 27, summoned to New Delhi from Bangalore, handed a police report on a supposed complaint by an anonymous Twitter account that Zubair had “hurt Hindu sentiments”, and told within minutes that he was being arrested for not cooperating with the investigation. 
Zubair’s three-week incarceration, before he was released following a bail order by the Supreme Court, comes amid increasing restrictions on civil liberties and media censorship by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, especially against Muslims.
A strongly worded order from the country’s top court may have secured Zubair’s freedom for now, but not since the 1975 Emergency — a 21-month suspension of democratic processes and fundamental rights — have Indian journalists felt this threatened, as the regime punishes critical voices. 
With Zubair, India’s most influential fact-checker at the helm, Alt News has established a track record of successfully calling out the hate and disinformation campaigns of Hindu supremacists. 
His inputs forced police to move against the people behind an app that “auctioned” Muslim women journalists and activists. 
Zubair also successfully highlighted shocking videos of Hindu priests calling for war against Indian Muslims, and it was his tweet of the clip of a spokeswoman of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), mouthing obscenities against Prophet Muhammad at a TV show, that triggered a diplomatic row, with 20 Islamic nations condemning the comments. 
Such work has infuriated the well-funded social media network of Hindu-right trolls and pro-BJP news outlets that broadcast and amplify Hindu supremacism to 700 million Indian mobile phone users, who happen to enjoy the world’s lowest data costs.   - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/03 August 2022 — - -

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