India has reacted sharply to the German foreign ministry’s comments on fact-checker Mohammed Zubair’s arrest. The Modi government called it “an internal issue” and said it was needless to comment on a case that is before the court.
“This is our internal matter. The matter is before the court. Our legal system is independent. Any comment on it is unhelpful. It’s not right,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
The German foreign ministry had expressed concerns over the detention of a Factcheker-journalist, Mohammed Zubair.
Richard Walker, a journalist with DW, asked the spokesperson why Germany has seemed recalcitrant in criticising India about its press freedom record, when it is a lot more outspoken about other countries where such abuses take place. Even after Zubair has been in custody for a week and a half, Walker asked why the spokesperson could not be more specific in his criticism of the Indian government’s actions.
“Free reporting benefits any society, and restrictions are a cause for concern. Journalists should not be persecuted and imprisoned for what they say and write. We are indeed aware of this specific case, and our embassy in New Delhi is monitoring it very closely,” a German foreign ministry spokesperson had said.
He said the European Union had an ongoing human rights dialogue with India, and “the freedom of expression and freedom of the press” are a focus of those discussions.
“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,” asserted the German spokesperson.
Mohammed Zubair is the co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News. He was arrested in Delhi on June 27 over a 2018 tweet. However, his arrest came after he flagged suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s comments on Prophet Muhammad on a TV show.
Many countries criticized Nupur Sharma’s comments, and an FIR was registered against her and another BJP leader Akhilesh Yadav. However, none of them has been arrested so far.