CPJ asks Indian authorities in India and in Kashmir not to harass journalists

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UNITED NATIONS, Jul 07 (APP): The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent watchdog body, Tuesday called on the authorities in Indian Occupied Kashmir to cease harassing journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor-in-Chief of The Wire, a news website, and allow journalists to report freely.

According to media reports, the occupied Kashmir police headquarters issued a legal notice on July 3 to Varadarajan of The Wire, indicating that police were considering legal action against the outlet for allegedly “propagating concocted stories” and “rumor mongering,” and asking Varadarajan’s response to those allegations within one week.

“Jammu and Kashmir authorities’ notice threatening legal action against journalist Siddarth Varadarajan only adds to the ongoing targeted harassment of The Wire in obvious retaliation for its critical reporting,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator, in Washington, D.C.

“Authorities should immediately withdraw the notice and allow The Wire and all media outlets to report freely on issues of public interest.”

The police document cites a June 7 article regarding the killing of a Kashmiri resident in police custody, and a June 28 article on the killing of a police officer in the region’s Pulwama district. Varadarajan told CPJ that The Wire stood by both stories.

In a separate case, the CPJ asked Indian authorities must cease their legal harassment of the news website Newsclick and its editors, and refrain from investigating members of the press.

On June 30, officials from the national Income Tax Department visited the offices of Newsclick in New Delhi and questioned its editor-in-chief, Prabir Purkayastha, and another editor, Pranjal, who uses one name, for five hours each, according to a report by the local newspaper The Telegraph and an editor with the outlet, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of official reprisal.

The tax officials questioned both editors in relation to a money laundering investigation, CPJ said. Delhi police previously opened a separate money laundering investigation into the outlet in August 2020, according to a police document reviewed by CPJ, and the Finance Ministry’s Enforcement Directorate is pursuing a third investigation into the outlet, also for alleged money laundering, according to that editor and The Indian Express.

During questioning, both editors were given summons from the Economic Offenses Wing of the Delhi police, ordering Purkayastha to attend questioning tomorrow and Pranjal on July 9, the editor said, adding that both journalists plan to comply.

A second Newsclick editor, who also spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal by authorities, said they believed that authorities had opened the investigations in retaliation for the outlet’s coverage of the nationwide farmers’ protests last year.