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False Allegations on Foreign Funds an 'Attempt to Shut Us Down': Alt News

"Our payment platform through which we receive donations does not allow receipt of funds from foreign sources and we have received donations from Indian bank accounts only."

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New Delhi: Alt News and its parent organisation, the Pravda Media Foundation, have issued a statement categorically denying allegations that they have received foreign funds.

“Our payment platform through which we receive donations does not allow receipt of funds from foreign sources and we have received donations from Indian bank accounts only,” the statement reads. “All the donations collected through these means go to the organisation’s bank account.”

The AltNews statement also responded to certain “source”-based news reports claiming that the police had found donations going directly to co-founder Mohammed Zubair’s account: “The allegation that individuals associated with the organisation have received funds in their personal accounts is also false since the individuals associated with the organisation only get monthly remuneration.”

The baseless allegations being made, the organisation has said, are “an attempt to shut down the very critical work that we do, and we will fight this attempt to shut us down and come out on top”.

On Saturday, the Delhi Police added charges of criminal conspiracy, destruction of evidence and under Section 35 of the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act to the FIR against Zubair. These charges allow the Enforcement Directorate to enter the probe.

The journalist was earlier arrested on June 27 under sections 153 (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, language, etc.) and 295 (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code.

Zubair was arrested in relation to a 2018 tweet featuring a screenshot from a movie made in 1983, Kissi Se Na Kehna. The arrest was made following a complaint tweet by an anonymous account going by the handle @balajikijaiin. The account now longer exists, but an investigation by The Wire has found that the arrest is the culmination of a years-long campaign by a network of anonymous and inauthentic accounts linked to Vikash Ahir, state president of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) and co-convenor of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) in Gujarat.

The fact-checker’s arrest and the case against him have been widely criticised within and outside India, particularly since it was made clear that his tweet was simply a screenshot from a mainstream movie. Since his arrest, some reports based on police sources have attempted to indicate that Alt News received foreign funds from abroad despite not being allowed to do so – an allegation that the organisation has now denied.