Top Occupied Kashmir journalist arrested by Indian forces

CPJ denounces Fahad Shah’s arrest, calls for his release

By: News Desk
Published: 03:37 PM, 5 Feb, 2022
Top Occupied Kashmir journalist arrested by Indian forces
Caption: File photo of Fahad Shah.
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A prominent journalist in Indian-occupied Kashmir has been arrested by police and accused of "glorifying terrorism" and "spreading fake news" in the disputed territory, where a running press crackdown has intensified.

Fahad Shah, the editor of Kashmir Walla news portal, had already been questioned several times for his reporting by Indian officers in recent years.

He had been arrested for "glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public", Indian police said Saturday. 

A police statement that followed his arrest the day before added that Shah's Facebook posts had dented "the image of law enforcing agencies".

The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded Shah's release and called on Indian authorities to respect press freedom in Kashmir.

Shah's arrest demonstrated "authorities' utter disregard for press freedom and the fundamental right of journalists to report freely and safely", Steven Butler of the Washington-based watchdog said.

Dozens of journalists in Indian-occupied Kashmir have regularly been summoned by police and questioned on their work since 2019, when New Delhi revoked the territory's partial autonomy and brought it under direct rule.

They have also been increasingly subject to harassment, arrests, raids and prosecution on "terrorism" related charges.

Over half a million Indian soldiers are deployed in the territory, battling a running freedom struggle demanding independence or Kashmir's merger with Pakistan.

CPJ calls for journalist’s release

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent watchdog body, has sharply criticized the arrest on Friday of journalist Fahad Shah in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K), and called for his immediate and unconditional release and to cease detaining members of the press.

“The arrest of Fahad Shah shows Jammu and Kashmir authorities’ utter disregard for press freedom and the fundamental right of journalists to report freely and safely,” Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, in Washington, DC, said in a statement.

“Authorities must immediately release Fahad Shah, and all other journalists behind bars, and cease detaining and harassing journalists for simply doing their jobs,” he added.

Before his detention, Shah told CPJ in a phone interview that police had questioned him on February 1 about The Kashmir Walla’s coverage of a gunfight between militants and government forces on January 30, which was published on the outlet’s website and its official Facebook page.

Shah has also repeatedly advocated for the release of Sajad Gul, a contributor to The Kashmir Walla, on his Twitter account, where he has about 55,000 followers. Gul was arrested on January 5, as CPJ documented at the time. He was granted bail on January 15, but police filed another dossier against him on the following day and he remains in detention, according to news reports.

CPJ said it repeatedly called Kashmir Police Director-General Dilbag Singh and Pulwama Police Senior Superintendent Ghulam Geelani, and contacted them via messaging app for comment, but did not receive any replies.