Video Producers: Shohini Bose, Mamta
Video Editors: Abhishek Sharma, Rajbir Singh
Journalist, fact-checker, and Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair was arrested by Delhi Police on 27 June, for a tweet from 2018. A day later, a Delhi Court remanded Zubair to 4 days in police custody. The arrest was at the behest of an anonymous Twitter account that made a singular post on 19 June, saying that Zubair had insulted Hindus.
The account disappeared from the website following the news of Zubair's arrest, and only re-surfaced on 30 June. Arrested, sent to custody for a four-year-old tweet – a joke from an old Bollywood movie, his laptop seized. But Zubair is not alone.
As per a report by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least seven undertrial journalists are still languishing in jail – four of them held under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
What are the stakes of being a journalist in India? And what is the state of press freedom in India? Let's decode case studies and key stats.
ASIF SULTAN, 34
Assistant Editor, The Kashmir Narrator
Asif was arrested for his article The Rise Of Burhan and is in jail since 27 August 2018. He was charged under the draconian UAPA and sedition laws. After being in prison for nearly four years, he got bail on 5 April 2022 for lack of evidence.
But he was not released, and on 10 April 2022, he was re-arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Asif was awarded the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award in Washington DC in August 2019.
AVINASH JHA, 24
Reporter, BNN News
On 9 November 2021, Avinash went missing and three days later, his severely burnt body was discovered, not very far from his house, by his family in Bihar's Benipatti.
Avinash was reportedly working on a story on the local private clinics. His family claimed he was killed for 'exposing fake clinics'.
SIDDIQUE KAPPAN, 42
Contributor: Azhimukham, Thejus Daily, Thalsamayam Midday Daily
Siddique was arrested on his way from New Delhi to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, to cover the alleged gangrape and the killing of a Dalit girl, that sparked nationwide outrage. He has been in jail since 5 October 2020, charged with UAPA and Sedition.
Police said that Kappan was going to Hathras with a "very determined design to create caste divide and disturb the law-and-order situation" and that he had links with the Popular Front of India (PFI).
RAMAN KASHYAP, 33
Reporter, Sadhna TV Plus
In October 2021, Raman died while covering farmers' protest at Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, that took a violent turn.
Kashyap's body was found in the mortuary. According to reports, he was injured during the violence and later died during his treatment at a local hospital. Kashyap's kin had accused son of Union minister of state for Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra, Ashish Mishra, and his associates of 'murder'.
SAJAD GUL, 26
Sajad has been in jail since 5 January 2022, on charges of provoking "ill-will against the government". He was arrested for his tweets and videos that police claim 'provoked people to resort to violence'. He was charged under PSA. He got bail on 15 January, but was re-arrested the same day.
A police statement said: "The said person under the garb of a journalist is habitual of spreading disinformation, false narratives through different social media platforms in order to create ill will against the government by provoking general masses to resort to violence and disturb public peace and tranquillity… his overall activities are prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity, and unity of India."
In August 2021, Chennakesavalu was found dead in Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool. His family alleged that he was killed by a suspended, 'corrupt' constable who he reportedly exposed.
FAHAD SHAH, 34
Editor, The Kashmir Walla
Fahad has been in jail since 5 February 2022. He was arrested for The Kashmir Walla's report on a gunfight in south Kashmir, and was later charged with UAPA and PSA.
On 26 February 2022, he was granted bail but was not released from jail and re-arrested. On 5 March, hours after getting bail from the Shopian court, he was arrested for the third time in a month.
MANISH SINGH, 26
Reporter, Sudarshan TV
After going missing for three days in August 2021, Manish's body was recovered from a lake in Bihar's East Champaran district.
According to his family and friends, he was killed for allegedly exposing corruption.
MANAN DAR, 25
Manan was reportedly picked up on 10 October 2021 for 'hatching a conspiracy for undertaking violent militancy acts in Jammu and Kashmir'.
On 17 October 2021, his brother and student Hanan Dar was also arrested. NIA only confirmed on 20 October 2021 that they have taken Manan into custody.
SULABH SRIVASTAVA, 42
Reporter, ABP News
In June 2021, Sulabh was found dead near a brick kiln in Uttar Pradesh's Pratapgarh, two days after he wrote to the police on receiving death threats, for reporting about the local liquor mafia.
MOHAMMED ZUBAIR, 38
Co-founder, Alt News
Arrested for 'hurting religious sentiments' through a four-year-old tweet, Zubair was charged under Sections 153 (promotion of enmity between religious groups) and 295A of IPC (outraging religious feelings).
The contentious tweet for which Zubair has been booked carries a picture of the signboard of a hotel visibly changed from 'Honeymoon Hotel' to 'Hanuman Hotel'. It is accompanied by the text: “BEFORE 2014: Honeymoon Hotel. After 2014: Hanuman Hotel”.
The picture, however, is neither of a place of worship, nor was it clicked by Zubair. He is not even the only person to share it. It is a screenshot of a scene from a 1985 comedy film Kissi Se Na Kehna, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, and has been shared by various Twitter users over the years in different funny contexts.