Germany Supports Zubair Mohammad, India Hits Out
Zubair in Tihar Jail
Fact checker Mohammed Zubair was arrested on June 27 by the Delhi police for a four year old tweet, and since has been drawn into a vortex of cases that he is battling in court. He is currently in Tihar jail. The Supreme Court has given him a conditional five days bail on a UP police case against him. But he will not be able to avail of this as the case booked against him by the Delhi police remains in place. The apex court has said it will hear the matter after five days, during which it has directed Zubair not to post any tweets in the interim.
Significantly, the case has caught the global eye with Germany now expressing concern over the arrest of Alt New co-founder Zunair. It also said that Berlin was in contact with its partners in the European Union on his continuing incarceration. India has, of course, slammed Germany for its "uninformed" views, maintaining that the case was a domestic issue and was being handled by India's independent judiciary.
However, this does not take away from the significance of the German response primarily because Berlin does not usually interfere with such issues, leaving it to the US and UK for occasional interventions. The German foreign office thus, raised eyebrows when its spokesperson said, "We are indeed aware of this specific case and our embassy in New Delhi is monitoring it very closely. We are also in contact on this with our EU partners on the ground. The EU has a human rights dialogue with India, and freedom of expression and freedom of the press are a focus of those discussions with India."
"India describes itself as the world's largest democracy. So one can expect democratic values like freedom of expression and freedom of the press to be given the necessary space there."
And went on to add that free reporting is "beneficial to any society and restrictions are cause for concern. Journalists should not be persecuted and imprisoned for what they say and write." The international media has widely reported this arrest, with the German statement perhaps the most detailed so far. And has taken the issue of rights and the media into the EU space.
Zubair had used Twitter recently to turn the spotlights on to BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma's remarks on Prophet Muhammad on television. This in itself had created a storm of reaction with Sharma having to apologise, and the government distancing itself from her remarks. Zubair has been subsequently arrested and is currently moving the courts for bail. Several organisations, civil society and media, have contested the arrest in statements urging the government to release the fact checker forthwith. However, there has been little to no response with Germany having upped the global ante with its statement on the issue of his arrest. Several journalists have been arrested over the past several months, and many still remain in jail.