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Indian police arrest journalist over 2018 tweet

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A prominent Indian journalist, Mohammed Zubair, has been arrested over a 2018 Twitter post he made which was deemed to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus in the country.

Zubair, a Muslim journalist and co-founder of India’s leading fact-checking website, Alt News, was arrested on Monday evening in New Delhi and remanded for a day in police custody, media reports said.

His arrest came after a Twitter user filed a complaint against him earlier this month, alleging that the 39-year-old journalist had insulted Hindus by commenting on the renaming of a hotel after the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman.

Shortly after the complaint, Twitter received a request from the government claiming that Zubair’s account had violated Indian laws, before he was arrested.

Alt-News’s other co-founder, Pratik Sinha, said on Twitter on Tuesday that no notice was given to Zubair before his arrest.

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“He is currently detained inside a police bus in Burari for more than an hour,” Sinha wrote on Twitter, referring to a New Delhi neighbourhood where Zubair was to be produced before a magistrate authorised the arrest.

“After the medical examination, Zubair is being taken to an undisclosed location. Neither Zubair’s lawyers or I are being told where. We are in the police van with him. No police is wearing any name tag,” he said in another post.

Zubair, a former telecom engineer from the southern IT hub of Bengaluru, and Sinha, a software engineer from Ahmedabad, founded Alt News in 2017, and since then, the website has busted numerous fake news stories, mostly pushed by Hindu right-wing portals, and claims made by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its supporters.

But their work has seen Zubair and Sinha facing online trolling and police cases for years.

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