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New Delhi: The foreign ministry of Germany has spoken against the arrest Indian journalist and Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair. Speaking at a press briefing, the ministry spokesperson said, “…we are of course committed to the freedom of expression and freedom of press all over the world. This is something of great importance. And that also applies to India.”
German foreign ministry on India’s ongoing detention of journalist Mohammed Zubair
“India describes itself as the world’s largest democracy. So one can expect democratic values like freedom of expression and of the press to be given the necessary space there”
— Richard Walker (@rbsw) July 6, 2022
“Free reporting is beneficial to any society and restrictions are a cause for concern,” the spokesperson continued in German. Journalists should not be persecuted and imprisoned for what they say and write. We are indeed aware of this particular case and our embassy in New Delhi is monitoring it very closely. We are also in contact on this with our EU partners on the ground – the EU has a human rights dialogue with India and freedom of expression and freedom of the press are a focus of those discussions with India.”
“India describes itself as the world’s largest democracy. So one can expect democratic values like freedom of expression and of the press to be given the necessary space there,” he went on.
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.
“I would not say I was not precise in my criticism,” the spokesperson responded. “Rather, I was very open to speaking on principle about the importance that we attach to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. And so that speaks for itself.”
India responded to comments sharply, calling it an “internal issue”. It said it was needless to comment on a matter that is sub-judice.
“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,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
Zubair was first arrested by the Delhi Police on June 27 for a 2018 tweet and spent five days in police custody. On July 2, the police slapped an additional charge under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and the chief metropolitan magistrate sent Zubair to Tihar jail for an additional 14 days. Then on July 4, another case was filed against him in Uttar Pradesh, and a Sitapur court remanded him to another 14 days judicial custody for calling three Hindutva hardliners – who have themselves been charged with hate-related offences – ‘hatemongers’.
The cases against Zubair have been criticised by press bodies, former judges and rights activist from across India and the world.
Note: This copy, published at 11:30 am on July 7, was updated at 10:20 pm on the same day with India’s reaction.