CPJ asks India to stop targeting journalists in Occupied Kashmir

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NEW YORK, Feb 23 (APP): The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent watchdog body, has called on authorities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) to drop their investigations into the work of journalists — Yashraj Sharma, Mir Junaid, and Sajad Gul — and let them to report without interference.

On January 31, the IIOJK authorities opened criminal investigations into Sharma, a reporter at The Kashmirwalla news website, and Junaid, a reporter at The Kashmiriyat news website, for alleged incitement, according to news reports.

On February 12, police began investigation into Gul, a freelance journalist who contributes to The Kashmirwalla, for allegedly taking part in an illegal demonstration against home demolitions, the reports said.

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

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

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. If charged and convicted, Sharma and Junaid could face up to three years in prison.

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 Jammu and Kashmir 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 Occupied Kashmir, alleged that local government official 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. If charged and convicted, Gul could face up to two years of imprisonment.