The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded the immediate release of Mohammed Zubair, who was arrested by the Delhi police last night.
Leading English newspapers today united in reporting last night's arrest of Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair – an arrest described by the Committee to Protect Journalists as "another low for press freedom in India".
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi police over a four-year-old tweet; charges against him include hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity.
CPJ said Indian authorities must "immediately and unconditionally" release Zubair and "cease harassing him in retaliation for his work". Its report was reposted on Twitter by CPJ's president Jodie Ginsberg and the Washington Post's press freedom initiative.
French politician Pierre Larrouturou also tweeted a photo of himself holding a poster that read "Free Teesta Setalvad and Zubair". He tweeted that India's government "must stop suppressing journalists and human rights defenders, and respect personal liberties of all its citizens".
In English dailies in India, leading the way was Indian Express, which deliberately placed the report on Zubair's arrest next to a story on India vowing to protect free speech. India had signed a "2022 Resilient Democracies Statement" with other countries committing to protect "freedom of expression and opinion online and offline".
The Telegraph linked Zubair's arrest with the recent arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad. The strap on page 1 said the arrests "stink of settling scores with a vengeance". On Alt News, it said, "Its founders have routinely faced online trolling and police cases lodged by Right-wing groups over the past few years."
The Hindu also had the news on page 1, reporting that opposition leaders like Shashi Tharoor, Supriya Shrinate and Derek O'Brien had strongly condemned the arrest. O'Brien described Zubair as "one of the world's finest journalists who exposes the BJP's #FakeNews factory every single day".
The arrest was the lead story on the front page of the New Indian Express in Chennai. It pointed out that it had been Zubair who had posted the infamous Nupur Sharma clip that triggered a "major global controversy" and the case that now led to his arrest "was about a tweet way back in 2018".
Times of India placed the news on page 1 of its Delhi edition. The story had, in bold, Digipub's condemnation of Zubair's arrest, saying: "Digipub, a body of digital news organisations, slammed 'unjustifiable' use of 'stringent laws as tools against journalists'."
Hindustan Times reported on the G7 summit at length on page 1, including how countries pledged to strengthen the "resilience of our democracies". The report on Zubair's arrest featured just below, with the headline "Journalist who flagged Prophet remark arrest by Delhi police".
Last night, a magistrate in Delhi sent Zubair to one day in police custody. Alt News cofounder Pratik Sinha said the Delhi police had sought seven days' custody but the magistrate declined.
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