The journalist told the Delhi court where he was presented that he was being targeted because of 'my faith, my name and my profession'.
Alt News cofounder Mohammed Zubair has been remanded to four days in police custody.
Zubair was produced before chief metropolitan magistrate Snigdha Sarvaria at the Patiala House Court in Delhi on Tuesday afternoon. After his arrest on Monday evening, he had been remanded to one-day police custody by a duty magistrate. The police today had sought a five-day remand.
KPS Malhotra, deputy commissioner of the police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations, which tracks cyber crime, told Newslaundry, "It was for a tweet that was questionable on legal grounds. This case has serious implications as far as religious fabric is concerned."
In the court on Tuesday, advocate Vrinda Grover appeared for Zubair. According to LiveLaw, she said the tweet was a screenshot from a 1983 Bollywood film and that the entire case "borders on absurdity".
"Prima facie, where is the case? Their investigation is based on a tweet," she asked. "Can my liberty be restrained even for a day because I am somebody who doesn't agree with someone in power?"
Grover said, "That is a professional duty of a journalist to speak truth to power and is being targeted because of that."
Referring to Zubair, Grover told the court, "Many have tweeted the same, the only difference between those handles and mine is my faith, my name and my profession."
Zubair's arrest was widely condemned by press bodies. The Committee to Protect Journalist called it "another low for press freedom in India". The Editors Guild said it was "apparent that Alt News' alert vigilance was resented by those who use disinformation as a tool to polarise the society and rake nationalist sentiments".
The Press Club of India said the arrest showed a "blatant violation of the country's commitment on the global platform given by none other than the prime minister himself" – referring to India joining other countries yesterday to commit to protecting freedom of expression online and offline. The statement said Zubair had to "pay the price for vigilance".
Digipub, a group of digital news organisations include Newslaundry, pointed out that this is the sixth FIR against Zubair over the last two years.
"In a democracy, where every individual possesses the right to exercise the freedom of speech and expression, it is unjustifiable that such stringent laws are being used as tools against journalists, who have been accorded the role of playing watchdog against the misuse of the institutions of the state," Digipub's statement said.
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