Indian fact-checkers Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha are among the contenders to win the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
According to a report by Time, the co-founders of the fact-check site Alt News are among 343 candidates in the running for the 50th anniversary of the prestigious prize, which awards people “who have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.”
Alt News, an independent website, has emerged as a leading debunker of misinformation in India, as well as calling out hate speech against minorities.
Debunking myriads of rumours that spread on social media like Muslims spreading Covid-19 to criticising viral posts that inflame sectarian tensions, has landed it in the cross hairs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.
Zubair was arrested in June this year for a four-year-old tweet that was “highly provocative and more than sufficient to incite feelings of hatred” which led to Delhi Police charging him for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and deliberate acts to outrage religious sentiments.
Zubair’s arrest prompted global outrage, with the nonprofit Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) issuing a statement saying, “another low for press freedom in India, where the government has created a hostile and unsafe environment for members of the press reporting on sectarian issues.”
“People in power want to shut me up for exposing their propaganda, their lies and their hate campaigns,” Zubair, 40, said in an interview with the New York Times. “They want to scare other journalists and activists by targeting me.”
Zubair was released a month later after being granted bail by the Supreme Court.
Alt News is one of a few websites that have surfaced in India over the past decade to counter misinformation that was widespread on the internet. Government data shows nearly a threefold rise in instances of fake news and rumors in India from 2019 to 2020.
According to a Reuters survey, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Belarussian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, British nature broadcaster David Attenborough, environmentalist activist Greta Thunberg, Pope Francis and the World Health Organization are among the nominees, in addition to Zubair and Sinha.
The winner is selected by the five-person Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is appointed by Norway’s parliament, and will be announced on October 7.