Four Kashmiri journalists currently in jails.

NEW DELHI – As many as 58 global rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Community to Protect Journalists and International Press Institute, urged Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, to release the incarcerated Kashmiri journalists namely Fahad Shah, Asif Sultan, Sajad Gul and Manan Gulzar.

In a joint statement addressed to the New Delhi-appointed L-G, the groups drew his attention to the illegal arrests and subsequent incarceration of the aforementioned scribes and urged him to ensure their immediate release using his good offices.

The statement read: “We, the undersigned 58 press freedom organizations, human rights organizations, and publications write to request your urgent intervention to secure the immediate release of Fahad Shah, editor of the online news portal The Kashmir Walla, from jail, and the withdrawal of all police investigations launched into his journalistic work.”

Fahad Shah was arrested on February 4 at the Pulwama police station after summoning him for questioning. The first information report (FIR) states that he is under investigation for alleged sedition and making statements causing public mischief, and unlawful activities under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

During his interrogation at the police station, Shah was questioned about The Kashmir Walla’s coverage of a gunfight between government forces and militants. Drawing his attention to the reputation Shah commanded in South Asia and around the world as a journalist of high integrity, the statement impressed upon Manoj Sinha on the need to release him.

As regards Shah’s professional acumen, they said, “His writing for The Nation magazine was recognised at the 2021 Human Rights Press Awards. His reporting on events in Jammu and Kashmir is a public service, not a crime, and should be protected under Indian law.”

Besides Shah, the statement called for the release of Sajad Gul, Aasif Sultan, and Manan Gular Dar by name among the journalists who have been illegally arrested in Kashmir. “We also urge you to arrange the immediate release of other detained Kashmiri journalists – Sajad Gul, Aasif Sultan, and Manan Gular Dar – all of whom, like Shah, have been jailed under anti-terror or preventative detention laws in apparent retaliation for their work,” reads the statement.

The groups noted that press freedom and rights groups have documented numerous incidents of detentions and threats to journalists in the region since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s political autonomy in August 2019. “In view of this,” they said, “the release of Fahad Shah and other arbitrarily detained journalists is a critical step to prevent further criminalisation of the profession in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The statement urged the L-G to see to it that “the authorities drop retaliatory investigations into all four journalists, unwarranted charges brought against them, and allow Kashmiri members of the press to work freely without facing detention, harassment, and other forms of government reprisal.”

Following is the list of the groups and publications that have signed the letter:

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia,
Ambedkar King Study Circle,
Ambedkar International Centre,
Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians,
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha,
Boston South Asian Coalition (BSAC),
Committee Against Assault on Journalists (CAAJ),
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ),
Council on Minority Rights in India (CMRI),
C19 People’s Coalition,
Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma,
Digipub News India Foundation,
Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai,
Foundation The London Story,
Free Press Unlimited,
Free Speech Collective,
Friends of India, Texas,
German Indian Alliance for Peace,
Global South Against Xenophobia,
Himal Southasian,
Hindus for Human Rights,
Human Rights Law Network,
Human Rights Watch,
The Humanism Project,
India Solidarity Germany,
Indian American Muslim Council,
Indian Federation of Working Journalists (IFWJ),
Indian Journalists Union (IJU),
Insider, Inc.,
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH),
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ),
International Press Institute,
International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India (InSAF India),
Jammu and Kashmir Journalists Association (JAKJA),
Jacobin, Journalist Federation of Kashmir (JFK),
Justice for All, Canada,
Justice for All, USA,
Kashmir Working Journalists Association,
The Nation,
Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI),
Overseas Press Club of America,
PEN America,
People Against Apartheid and Fascism (PAAF),
Press Club of India,
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI),
Pulitzer Centre,
Reporters Without Borders (RSF),
Rural Indigenous Health, Boston,
Scottish Indians for Justice,
Semillas Collective,
Sikh Human Rights Group,
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT),
South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA),
South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN),
South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN),
South Asia Solidarity Group, Turbine Bagh.

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