Andaman journalist booked for tweeting on ‘quarantine over call with COVID-19 patients’

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A journalist in Andaman and Nicobar Islands was on Monday arrested for questioning authorities on Twitter.

Journalist Zubair Ahmad was arrested after he questioned the authorities on reports of a family being home quarantined for 28 days just because they spoke to a relative who was COVID-19 positive over the telephone.

Ahmad, however, granted bail after he was produced in a Port Blair court on Tuesday. Following a report in a local newspaper and information he had gathered over the last few days, Zubair on Monday tweeted, “Can someone explain why families are placed under home quarantine for speaking over phone with Covid patients?” He tagged the Andaman administration and the L-G’s media cell in the tweet.

The journalist was then summoned by the police on April 27 in the evening. He alleged that his phone was seized and he was booked for a non-bailable offence. Ahmed was made to spend 15 hours in the lock-up.

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In another tweet, he wrote, “Request #Covid19 quarantined persons not to call any acquaintance over phone. People are being traced and quarantined on the basis of phone calls.”

Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, DGP, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dependra Pathak said, “The person concerned started tweeting that the administration is doing (things) wrong. He urged people not to cooperate with the administration at a time when we all are battling the pandemic. We have arrested him and due process of law is being followed.”

He further said, “One way of contact-tracing of COVID-positive people is by tracking their phone calls, and after evaluation placing them in home quarantine for 28 days.”

After getting bail on Tuesday, Zubair said, “I just asked the administration a question. Instead of answering me, they arrested me.”

“We have the right to ask question. But I think they wanted to teach me a lesson, and therefore the arrest,” he added.

DGP Pathak said besides Zubair, cases have been lodged against four others in the last 10 days “for circulating material detrimental to the public in these times”.

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