New Delhi: In an interview to The Wire, founder of Alt News Pratik Sinha talked about the recent FIRs against his colleague Mohammed Zubair, calling the allegations “a form of targeting”.
“There’s no case here. This has been going on for a month. Just a week ago, someone tipped us off that the political class has expressed a lot of interest in the case. So, we know that the government is involved. If a statutory body (like NCPCR) entertains a complaint like this, it shows this is not a small issue. Alt News and especially Zubair are being targeted for the work that they do,” Sinha told The Wire‘s senior editor, Arfa Khanum Sherwani.
Following a complaint from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the Delhi Police cyber cell and the Raipur Police lodged two FIRs against Zubair along with two Twitter users in Delhi and Raipur under sections of the IT Act and the POCSO Act for allegedly “harassing and torturing” a minor girl on social media.
Alt News‘ work combatting fake news and misinformation has made it a target for the right-wing government, Sinha said. While opposition parties have also shared fake news on several occasions, “the amount of misinformation spread by the right-wing is a lot more”.
“Even though there are other bodies doing similar work, I believe Alt News‘ work stands out because of how we have shown how elected ministers and people from the ruling party spread misinformation through their social media accounts to create a narrative,” Sinha told The Wire. “Alt News has countered misinformation created around Tablighi Jamaat where people started saying that Muslims are intentionally spreading coronavirus. We countered the narrative that women of Shaheen Bagh were taking Rs 500 to protest against the CAA/NRC. When Jamia was attacked, a very mainstream media channel showed how the police were responding to what Jamia students did – we exposed how the students were not at fault.”
“During the North-East Delhi riots a lot of news channels showed how shooting was started by a Muslim gully, but we showed that the firing took place inside the gully instead. So we are repeatedly showing how a false narrative is being created. This is why I think Alt News became a target,” he continued.
People have brainwashed by propaganda, Sinha said. “Therefore, people who bust propaganda are like thorns in their (the ruling party’s) path. But what is also true is that people also extend support. I think the people just have to unite. They are the most afraid of people being united. One has to fight back obviously. If we sit in fear, they will try to scare us more.”
Alt News issued a statement soon after the FIRs were filed, standing by Zubair. “We will extend every form of support towards Zubair,” Sinha told The Wire.
“He is one of us. Zubair is being targeted because of his work. It is the responsibility of the organisation that when a member is being targeted for their work, then the organisation has to stand by that person. We will completely stand by Zubair and support him in every which way we can. We have no doubt in our head that this case is all wrong. At the same point in time, the team will continue to do the work we are doing.”
On August 6, Zubair while responding to online abuse from Twitter user Jagdish Singh (@JSINGH2252), shared Singh’s display picture with a little girl (blurring her face) and wrote, “Hello Jagdish Singh. Does your cute grand daughter know about your part time job of abusing people on social media? I suggest you to change your profile pic.”