NEW YORK: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent watchdog body, Sunday called on authorities in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) to immediately release arrested journalists, cease detaining and questioning journalists, and commit to allowing the media to operate freely.
“India needs to move quickly to improve its shameful record of harassing and detaining critical journalists in Jammu and Kashmir in a complete abandonment of India’s once-proud tradition of press freedom,” said Steven Butler, CP’s Asia programme coordinator, in Washington, DC.
“Police must immediately release Salman Shah and Suhail Dar and allow journalists to do their jobs without fear of reprisal,” he added.
Since October 8, the CPJ, citing news reports, said four journalists were detained, subsequently releasing two of them, and questioned one other.
The five journalists are Salman Shah, editor of Kashmir First, the online weekly magazine of the news website The Kashmiriyat; Suhail Dar, a freelance journalist contributing to news websites The Kashmiriyat and Maktoob Media, and the Urdu-language newspaper Sach News; Mukhtar Zahoor, a freelance journalist contributing to the BBC; Majid Hyderi, a freelance journalist and commentator contributing to the news channels Times Now, Republic TV, CNN News 18, India Today, and India News and Sajad Gul, a freelance journalist contributing to news websites The Kashmir Walla and Mountain Ink.
The CPJ, said the authorities formally arrested Dar and Shah on October 14, and both remain detained at Anantnag district jail. Also on October 14, a local magistrate ordered Shah and Dar to remain detained for two days, according to The Kashmir Walla.
On the evening of October 8, authorities summoned Dar to the Sadder police station in Kashmir’s Anantnag district for questioning before detaining him, according to news reports and Dar’s brother, Tariq Dar, who spoke to the CPJ via phone.
Tariq Dar told the CPJ that the police had not informed the family of any reasons for his brother’s detention.
Separately, on October 12, officers with the Sherbagh police station in Anantnag district detained Shah from his home in the Sheerpora area of Anantnag district for questioning, according to The Kashmir Walla and his brother Imran Shah, who spoke to the CPJ via phone.
Imran Shah said that his family had not been informed of any police investigation into Shah until his formal arrest.
Both journalists have been accused of violating two sections of the Indian penal code, pertaining to “knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse” and abetment, according to The Kashmir Walla, citing unnamed sources, and another person familiar with the cases, who spoke to the CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal by authorities.
Tariq Dar and Imran Shah told CPJ that they have not received a copy of a police report detailing the accusations against Dar and Shah.
Masarat Mir, the station house officer of the Sadder police station, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment on Dar’s ongoing detention sent via messaging app. Majid Nadeem, the station house officer of the Sherbagh police station, also did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment on Shah’s ongoing detention sent via messaging app.