Fact-checker detained in India for stoking religious strife

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On June 27, Indian authorities arrested journalist and fact-checker Mohammed Zubair of Alt News because one of his 4-year-old tweets they said mocked Hinduism and inflamed already tense religious strife in the country. country.

Zubair, who is Muslim, is popular on Twitter for his frequent debunking of anti-Islamic propaganda, often spearheaded by Hindu nationalist groups including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.

Many have speculated that the reason given for the arrest was a pretext to file further charges against Zubair. The theory would appear to stand up to scrutiny given that over the weekend Indian authorities extended his arrest by five days to a further 14 days of ‘judicial custody’ and pivoted charges of criminal conspiracy and disappearance. of evidence. Delhi police also searched Zubair’s house.

“They can’t sue me for writing a story because we have facts with us in our stories,” Zubair said. told forbidden stories, a non-profit outlet that highlights the work of journalists who were threatened for their coverage last year. “They can’t attack us on the story we wrote, so they’re looking to attack me for any other unrelated tweets.”

Alt News co-founder and editor Pratik Sinha called the arrest “an attempt to stop us from doing what we are doing.” Sinha is facing independent legal attacks.

Since then, donations platform Razorpay has deactivated Alt News’ account after receiving a “request from law enforcement.” Razorpay is a key source of funding for the outlet, which bills itself as entirely crowd-funded. The Indian government has also accused Alt News of illegally receiving foreign money, including from Pakistan, in a claim the outlet denies.

“These allegations are categorically false. Our payment platform through which we receive donations does not allow funds to be received from foreign sources and we have received donations only from Indian bank accounts,” Alt News wrote in a statement. posted on Twitter.

Besides hundreds of thousands of followers, Zubair has a number of detractors, including the BJP and other even more right-wing Hindu nationalist groups. Zubair has gained popularity by debunking far-right claims and sharing videos of anti-Muslim behavior.

In a video share on Zubair’s Twitter account, a Muslim woman arrives at a university wearing a naqib, a garment typically worn by Muslim women that covers everything but their eyes. Immediately, she is attacked and followed by a large group of protesting students twirling scarlet shawls above their heads and screaming. When the woman shouts Allahu akbar (which means “God is great” in Arabic), a radio journalist rushes to film her, with dozens of student protesters following her. Throughout India, the scarlet shawl is a symbolic protest against the use of hijab and niqab in schools.

The account that alerted Delhi police to Zubair’s tweet meme in 2018, @balajikijaiin, had no followers and has since been taken down.

“@Delhipolice linking our god Hanuman ji to Honey Moon (a 1973 Bollywood comedy) is a direct insult to Hindus because he is brahmachari. @DCP_CCC_Delhi please take action against this guy,” the tweet read .

Zubair was initially called in for questioning on an unrelated matter, for which he had already been granted immunity from arrest, when he was arrested for the tweet.

According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index, India ranks 150th for press freedom out of 180 recognized countries.


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Oslo, Norway. View of the fortress of Oslofjord and Akershus from the top of the town hall. (Shutterstock)

Of actuality :

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  • Herbal recipes for abortion are unproven and may be dangerous, contrary to social media posts A deep dive into the different herbal ways that are recommended to induce abortion. As FactCheck.org points out, many have been unproven and some have caused damage. “Although some of the concoctions can cause abortion, it may just be a byproduct of poisoning in the woman’s body,” Dr. Jen Gunter said. “Many herbal abortifacients are literally poisonous.” (FactCheck.org, Saranac Hale Spencer)

From/for the community:

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  • According to Science Feedback: “The goal of the Climate Science Desk is to assist the fact-checking community with their existing climate-related efforts and to assist organizations that have not yet begun fact-checking the climate to take the plunge. Science Feedback has already assembled a community of about 400 climate scientists and launched a crowdsourced model to check the credibility of viral climate claims. With the Climate Science Desk project, we want to build on our network and experience to help other fact-checking organizations increase their capacity in the climate space. A version of the portal is available here.
  • From Verificat & Kinzen: “We are pleased to announce the launch of “The Mentides intoxicate the planeta” (Lies intoxicate the planet), a climate-related fact-checking web repository that Verificat will produce by monitoring thousands of hours of Spanish-language podcasts over the next 10 months. This is made possible thanks to Kinzen’s Technology and support from IFCN and Meta through the Climate Misinformation Grant Program.
  • De Maldita: “We are pleased to announce a new online escape room called The prank factory aimed to learn to recognize misinformation about migrants. In the game, you put yourself in the shoes of an investigative journalist who has 45 minutes to collect evidence of the disinformation activities of the hoax factory in order to publish a scoop revealing the danger it poses. The program was developed in collaboration with Oxfam Intermon and the European Union and is available in English and Spanish.

Virginia C. Taylor