Cops Arrest Journalist in Kashmir, Media Groups Demand Release
Long, hard fight, this photograph shows slain Shujaat Bukhari in protest
SRINAGAR: The arrest of a Srinagar-based journalist by Jammu and Kashmir Police for his alleged involvement in an attack on security forces in the summer capital last month has sparked outrage with media groups terming it an an “attempt to harass journalist”.
Aasif Sultan, who works as assistant editor for Kashmir Narrator magazine, was detained by police during a raid at his Batamaloo house on the night of August 27, his father Mohammad Sultan Dar said, “They took away his laptop, cellphone along with some documents and books. He was kept in illegal detention for last six days.”
However, a J&K police statement said he was arrested on Saturday, after which a local court sent him to seven-day police remand, “During initial questioning of the accused, subsequent searches were carried out based on disclosures made in this case so far which has led to the seizure of incriminating materials from various locations. It also establishes his (Aasif’s) complicity for harbouring known terrorists involved in a series of terror crimes,” said the statement.
The arrest has sparked outrage with Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemning what they termed as a move to “pressurise him to become an informer”.
“Police should immediately release Aasif Sultan from jail and halt efforts to pressure him to reveal sources or become an informer,” Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator said in a statement. “By reporting on militant activity, Sultan is performing an important public service, not committing a crime.”
The charges against Aasif, who has written extensively on the militancy in Kashmir and also recently authored a cover story on Burhan Wani for his magazine, have also been strongly refuted by his family and the organisation he works for, with the clamour growing for his early release.
“The charges against him are baseless and absolute lies. They (police) are not unhappy with our stories and reportage on militancy. It is pure harassment, nothing else. They had told him that since he is a resourceful person, he should work for police as an informer,” said Showkat Motta, editor of Kashmir Narrator.
The arrest was also condemned by Srinagar-based Kashmir Working Journalist Association (KWJA) and Kashmir Journalist Association (KJA) who demanded immediate release of Aasif from “illegal custody” of police.
“....(security agencies) have been trying their best to police media in Kashmir, and harassing media organisations and journalists has been a routine. But we want to make it clear that journalist fraternity will fight such efforts tooth and nail. We ask the government and police chief to explain laws and rules under which he has been kept in lockup for past six days,” the statement said.