India arrests Kashmiri editor as press repression continues

Fahad Shah

Occupying Indian authorities have arrested Fahad Shah, the editor-in-chief of The Kashmir Walla newspaper, for allegedly posting “anti-national” content and “glorifying terrorist activities.”

According to Indian police, Mr Shah is wanted in three cases for “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public for creating law and order situations.”

Kashmir zone police chief, Vijay Kumar, said: “The accused Fahad Shah has been arrested on the basis of one of the three FIRs lodged against him in Pulwama Islamabad.”

Mr Shah has been detained under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), a draconian law that occupying Indian authorities frequently use against critics of the BJP-led Narendra Modi government, and sedition.

The arrest of Mr Shah was strongly condemned by various international media advocacy and watchdog groups who have demanded an end to the harassment of journalists in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IOK).

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement: “Authorities in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Fahad Shah, drop any investigation into his work, and cease detaining members of the press.”

Steven Butler, the CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, said: “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. Authorities must immediately release Shah, and all other journalists behind bars, and cease detaining and harassing journalists for simply doing their jobs.”

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) also condemned the arrest, stating: “The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security.

“The Guild also demands immediate release of Fahad Shah as well as Sajad Gul, and to ensure that FIRs under harsh penal laws, intimidatory questioning, and wrongful detainment are not used as tools for suppressing journalists’ rights.

“The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir. The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security.”

Besides owning and running The Kashmir Walla, Mr Shah has frequently written in prominent international publications like Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, TIME, The Nation and Foreign Policy. Mr Shah was awarded the prestigious 25th Human Rights Press Awards 2021 in explanatory feature for his coverage of Delhi’s communal violence in February 2020.

Before Mr Shah’s arrest, another The Kashmir Walla staffer, Sajad Gul, was arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) – a law that allows the detention of anyone for a period of up to two years without a trial – and he is currently incarcerated in Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu.

The Kashmir Walla said in a statement: “The team stands in solidarity with Shah and his family at this time of distress and remains committed to providing reliable and on-ground reporting from Kashmir and appeals to Manoj Sinha-led Jammu and Kashmir administration for the immediate release of Shah and Gul. We hope both of them will join us back in the newsroom soon.”

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