Germany tells India to stop jailing journalists, reminds it that it is ‘the world’s largest democracy’

India’s foreign ministry has criticised the ‘unhelpful’ and ‘uninformed’ remarks, saying the independence of its judiciary is ‘well-recognised’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 08 July 2022 14:55 BST

Germany tells India to stop jailing journalists

Germany has expressed concerns over the arbitrary arrest of Indian journalist Mohammed Zubair, reminding New Delhi of the importance of freedom of the press in a democracy.

German foreign ministry spokesman Christian Wagner on Wednesday said Berlin was aware of “this specific case” and added that its embassy in New Delhi was “monitoring it very closely”.

Mr Zubair, the co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews and a critic of prime minister Narendra Modi, was sent to 14 days of judicial custody last week in a case registered over a 2018 tweet, that the country’s right-wing elements claim has hurt the religious sentiments of the adherents of the country’s majority Hindu religion.

Mr Zubair’s arrest came just days after his fact-checking website highlighted the offensive remarks against the Prophet Muhammad made by two former spokespeople for Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which resulted in a diplomatic backlash from at least 15 countries.

Germany is committed to freedom of expression and press freedom which “also applied to India”, Mr Wagner pointed out, according to the country’s broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

“Free reporting is beneficial to any society and restrictions are a cause for concern. Journalists should not be persecuted and imprisoned for what they say and write.”

He said Berlin would work with its EU partners on the ground on human rights amid their ongoing dialogue with India.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are a focus of those discussions with India,” Mr Wagner added.

“India describes itself as the world’s largest democracy,” the German foreign ministry spokesperson said, adding “so one can expect democratic values like freedom of expression and of the press to be given the necessary space there”.

Responding to the criticism, New Delhi on Thursday claimed “uninformed” remarks were “unhelpful” and “should be avoided”.

“In itself it’s a domestic issue. Let me emphasise that there is a judicial process underway in this case and I don’t think it would be appropriate for me, or anyone else, to comment on a case that is sub-judice,” said India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

Mr Bagchi also claimed the independence of India’s judiciary was “well-recognised”.

The arrest of Mr Zubair on 27 June, who routinely calls out hate speech by Hindu fringe groups on the internet, has been condemned by human rights groups, media organisations and opposition leaders.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to Mr Zubair for five days in a separate case filed against him in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh for calling three radical Hindu supremacist seers “hatemongers” on Twitter.

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