Basic freedom of expression threatened in IOK: Amnesty » Kashmir Media Service

New Delhi, September 12 (KMS): Global human rights watchdog, the Amnesty International, has said that the intimidation, harassment and detention of journalists by the Indian state have threatened basic freedom of expression norms in occupied Kashmir.

Zahoor Wani, senior campaigner, Amnesty International India in a statement said, “What we are witnessing in the valley is a new form of censorship where journalists are detained for doing their job. The recent arrest of Kashmir-based journalist Aasif Sultan and the subsequent suspension of the Twitter handle of his employer, Kashmir Narrator, raises serious concerns about the deteriorating state of press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir.”

“The use of a draconian law like the UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] against media persons is an attempt to stifle journalism in Jammu and Kashmir. The law is often used to arbitrarily detain people who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. People, the state considers a threat, are held in detention without charge for up to six months,” said Zahoor Wani.

Amnesty International believes the charges against Aasif Sultan are fabricated and politically motivated, and part of an attempt to stifle freedom of expression in Kashmir. In July 2018, another journalist, Aaqib Javaid, associated with the daily Kashmir Observer was summoned and interrogated by the NIA in an interview of senior Hurriyat leader, Aasiya Andrabi, he conducted. In October 2016, the Jammu and Kashmir government banned the publication of English daily Kashmir Reader.

Aasif Sultan, who works as an Assistant Editor at Kashmir Narrator, was picked up from his residence and detained by police on 27th August 2018. He was formally arrested on 1st September 2018. The police have booked Aasif with offences under various sections of Criminal Procedure Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Speaking to the Amnesty International India, Showkat A Motta, Editor-in-Chief of ‘Kashmir Narrator’, dismissed the allegations made by the police. “It is harassment by the police and an attack on the rights of a journalist. Aasif is being targeted for his journalistic work. In the July 2018 edition of our monthly, Aasif wrote an article titled ‘The Rise of Burhan’. Police had taken note of the article,” he said.

“The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) emailed us a list of questions about the article and asked us to respond within two days. The email also had a list of words that police considered ‘objectionable’,” Showkat Mota said. He also said that police was questioning Aasif for his work on conflict related issues. “Aasif is being questioned for not writing about development. While meeting police officials during the past week, I was asked questions about Aasif’s political ideology,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kashmir Narrator’s Twitter account has been blocked. The reason provided on Twitter is, “Account withheld – @KashmirNarrator’s account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand”.

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