– Mohammed Atherulla Shariff
Mohammed Zubair, the co- founder of fact-checking organization Alt News has won the Index on Censorship award for Journalism, 2023. According to the Index, “His fight against fake news and disinformation in India has led to him facing attacks, slander and even jail.”
The Freedom of Expression Awards are a “chance to recognise the astonishing work being done in extraordinary circumstances by artists, journalists, and campaigners around the world”, said the CEO of Index on Censorship Ruth Anderson.
Zubair, after winning the award, said, “It’s been an honour and a privilege to receive the Index [on Censorship] award, especially at a time when fake news and disinformation has emerged as a Frankenstein monster here in India. I hope this award will serve as a flicker of hope to several other younger journalists, my colleagues at Alt News and the readers of Alt News. Lastly, I want to thank everyone who stood by me when I was attacked, slandered and even jailed for doing my job. Thank you.”
When Zubair was nominated last month, the Index referred to his arrest in June 2022, saying it is representative of the significant threats he has faced after challenging mis- and disinformation propagated by influential members of the ruling party.
The Index on Censorship is a non-governmental group that campaigns for and defends free expression globally. They “publish work by censored writers and artists, promote debate, and monitor threats to free speech.” They added, significantly, “We all share in his [Zubair’s] campaign for transparent and accurate news.”
Very recently Zubair had exposed the false claim of Israeli authorities that a 4-year-old child killed in Gaza was a ‘doll not a child’. The propaganda was towed by many right wingers in India and abroad and had blamed Hamas for carrying out false propaganda to demonise Israel. Several news media outlets published reports on Hamas’ apparent tactic for “deception”.
Alt News reached out to Momen El Halabi, a Palestinian photographer who has been covering and documenting the Israeli atrocities on Palestinians. Momen refuted the viral claim that the photo showed a doll and not an actual child. He told Alt News that the boy seen in the video was 4-year-old Omar Bilal Al-Banna, who was killed in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. He was an orphan and his father was killed in previous years’ attack. The body of the child Omar was carried by his relative.
Another fact-checked story that Alt News has come out with is that of a crime reported in Mexico in 2018. It is being falsely shared as Hamas militants torturing a pregnant woman and killing an unborn baby.