CPJ urges India to drop charges against Kashmiri journalists

New York, February 23 : The Committee to Protect Journalists, New York-based non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists, has called upon the Indian government to drop investigations into the work of journalists Mir Junaid, Sajad Gul and Yashraj Sharma and allow them to report without interference.

On January 30, Indian police in occupied Jammu and Kashmir opened criminal investigations into Sharma, a reporter at The Kashmirwalla news website, and Junaid, a reporter at The Kashmiriyat news website, on the fake charge of incitement.

Fahad Shah, editor-in-chief of The Kashmirwalla, and Qazi Shibli, news editor of The Kashmiriyat, both spoke to CPJ over phone and informed the global journalist protection body about the concocted charges leveled against Kashmiri journalists by Indian police in the territory.

On February 12, police opened an investigation into Gul, a freelance journalist who contributes to The Kashmirwalla, for allegedly taking part in a demonstration against home demolitions in Hajin, according to Gul, who spoke to CPJ via phone.

“Journalists Yashraj Sharma, Mir Junaid, and Sajad Gul should be allowed to do their jobs without harassment, intimidation, and criminal investigations from Kashmiri authorities,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher.

“Jammu and Kashmir Police must drop their investigations into all three journalists and stop targeting journalists because of their reporting.”

The investigation into Sharma and Junaid concerns reports they published on January 27 in The Kashmirwalla and The Kashmiriyat, which each quoted the chairperson of a school in the southern Kashmiri city of Shopian, who said Indian Army authorities had pressured the school to celebrate Republic Day, according to Shah and Shibli. Shah told CPJ that The Kashmirwalla outlet stands by its story.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed to police by an unnamed Indian army official, who accused Sharma and Junaid of spreading “fake news”.

Both Shah and Shibli told CPJ that their reporters were not given copies of the complaint, and they found out about the police investigation through social media.

On February 2, a court rejected Shah and Sharma’s petition for pre-emptive bail, which would exempt the journalists from detention during the investigation, and both are now petitioning IIOJK High Court, Shah told CPJ.

The investigation into Gul stems from an article he published on February 9, in which residents of Hajin, a town in Bandipora district, in north Kashmir, said that local government official Ghulam Mohammad Butt had threatened them and forcefully demolished their homes, Gul told CPJ.

Gul denied partaking in such a demonstration, and told CPJ that he was in Srinagar, about 40 miles from Bandipora, on February 10.

Gul also told CPJ that the police had not given him a copy of the complaint, and have merely mentioned the counts on which he is being investigated.

CPJ contacted Amritpal Singh, senior superintendent of police for Shopian, Colonel K. Arun of the army’s Additional Directorate General of Public Information, and Sajad Malik, police deputy superintendent of Hajin, for comment via messaging app, but did not receive any responses.

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