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In India, Debunking Fake News and Running Into the Authorities

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AHMEDABAD, India — The two men were unlikely candidates to work in the news business.Neither had a background in journalism, but both were alarmed with the surge of misinformation in India that followed the rise of Narendra Modi as the Hindu nationalist prime minister. To take on this problem, the men, both engineers, started Alt News in 2017.Since then, Alt News has become a leading fact checker in India, debunking rumors on social media that often spiral onto television news, including those about child-kidnapping gangs and that Muslims were spreading Covid. Calling out hate speech has also become part of the site’s work as it has taken aim at viral posts that inflame sectarian tensions and that sometimes spur violent mobs to attack innocent people.Led by its founders, Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha, Alt News has criticized supporters and officials of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party for their statements targeting minorities.But in a reflection of the growing concerns about the independence and freedom of the news media in India, Mr. Zubair has landed in the authorities’ cross hairs. He has been arrested on ch …

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