40 press freedom and human rights organizations write to LG Delhi demanding release of Kashmiri journalist

New Delhi: At least 40 press freedom organizations, human rights organizations and publications wrote to Jammu and Kashmir Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha on Saturday urging him to intervene to free the journalist Kashmiri Fahad Shah.

Shah had been arrested on February 4 for allegedly “glorifying terrorist activities and “inciting the public”, with Kashmir police adding that the journalist had been named in two previous cases.

The joint letter comes less than a week after the Indian Publishers Guild condemned the Kashmir police for arresting Shah and lamented that “the space for media freedom has gradually eroded in Kashmir”.

“[Fahad Shah’s] reporting on events in Jammu and Kashmir is a public service, not a crime, and should be protected by Indian law,” the letter reads, referring to Shah as “a journalist of high integrity.”

The letter also urged Lieutenant Governor Sinha to release other Kashmir journalists who had been detained”under anti-terrorism or preventive detention laws”like Sajad Gul, Aasif Sultan and Manan Gul.

Read the full letter here:

Dear Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha,

We, the undersigned #XX press freedom organisations, human rights organizations and publications are writing to request your urgent intervention to secure the immediate release of Fahad Shah, editor of the online news portal The Walla of Kashmirprison, and the withdrawal of all police investigations opened into his work as a journalist.

On February 4, the authorities stopped Shah at Pulwama police station, where he had been summoned earlier in the day for questioning. The First Information Report indicates that Shah is being investigated for alleged sedition and for making statements causing public disorder and unlawful activity under the Anti-Terrorism Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Prior to his arrest, the police had interrogates Shah regarding The Walla of Kashmircoverage of a shootout between government forces and militants.

Shah is well known to many in South Asia and around the world as a journalist of high integrity. His writing for The nation the magazine was recognized 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 by Indian law.

We also urge you to arrange for the immediate release of the other detained Kashmiri journalists – Sajad Gul, Asif Sultanand Manan Gular Dar – who, like Shah, have been imprisoned under anti-terrorism laws or pre-trial detention in apparent retaliation for their work.

Since the abrogation of political autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, freedom and press rights groups have documented numerous incidents of detentions and threats to journalists in the region. In view of this, the release of Fahad Shah and other arbitrarily detained journalists is a crucial step to prevent further criminalization of the profession in Jammu and Kashmir.

We urge you to ensure that the authorities drop their retaliatory investigations against the four journalists, drop all unwarranted charges against them, and allow members of the Kashmiri press to work freely without facing detention, harassment and other forms of government retaliation.

Sign:

Ambedkar International Center

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Channel

Boston South Asian Coalition (BSAC)

Committee Against Attacks on Journalists (CAAJ)

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

People’s Coalition COVID-19

Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

Digipub News India Foundation

Freedom of Expression Collective

Unlimited free press

Forum Against Women’s Oppression, Mumbai

The London Story Foundation

Global South against xenophobia

Hindus for Human Rights

Human Rights Network

Human Rights Watch

The Humanism Project

Indo-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)

Kashmiri Journalists Federation (JFK)

Justice for All, Canada

Justice for All, USA

The nation

Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI)

Overseas Press Club of America

PEN America

People Against Apartheid and Fascism (PAAF)

Program Against Torture and Impunity in Detention (PACTI)

India Press Club

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Sikh Human Rights Group

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

South Asia Solidarity Group

Turbine bag


Read also : Editors Guild denounces arrest of Fahad Shah, says media freedom has been ‘gradually eroded’ in Kashmir


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