CPJ slams India’s ‘blatant’ disregard of press freedom, demands release of arrested Kashmiri journalists

CPJ slams India's 'blatant' disregard of press freedom, demands release of arrested Kashmiri journalists

NEW YORK, Oct 20 (APP): The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Wednesday called for the immediate release of three journalists detained in Indian occupied Kashmir since October 8, saying the growing number of newsmen’s arrests reflect the authorities’ “blatant” disregard of press freedom.

In a statement, CPJ, an independent watchdog body, also called for ceasing harassment and questioning of journalists in relation to their work and commit to allowing the media to operate freely and independently.

On October 17, it said police detained Sulaiman Sath, a freelance journalist contributing to the privately owned Urdu-language newspaper Daily Gadyal, from his home in the Untoo Hamam area of Kashmir’s central Ganderbal district.

In addition to Sath, two journalists — Salman Shah and Suhail Dar — are detained in Anantnag district jail, according to local news website The Kashmir Walla. Dar was detained on October 8 and Shah was detained on October 12, as CPJ documented.

“The growing number of detained journalists in Kashmir demonstrates authorities’ continuous and blatant lack of respect for press freedom,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s programme director, in New York.

“Authorities must immediately release Sulaiman Sath, Salman Shah, and Suhail Dar, and commit to allowing the media to operate without fear of reprisal,” he added.

Sath is detained at the Ganderbal police station, according to The Kashmir Walla. Bhat told CPJ that he does not know the reason for his son’s detention.

Nikhil Borkar, the senior superintendent of police of the Ganderbal district, told The Kashmir Walla that he would publicize the reason for Sath’s detention last night, but the news website provided no further details and CPJ has been unable to locate any public statements by Borkar.

CPJ called and messaged Borkar for comment, but did not receive any reply, according to the statement.

In a separate incident on Oct 18, CPJ, citing news reports, said that armed government forces detained Junaid Shafiq Peer, a photojournalist with the privately owned Urdu-language newspaper Tameel-i-Irshad, from his home in the Sopore area of Kashmir’s northern Baramulla district. Peer was released late last night without charge, according to two sources familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

Over the previous two weeks, Jammu and Kashmir authorities detained and released two other journalists and questioned one other, as CPJ documented.

CPJ said Dilbag Singh, the director general of the Jammu and Kashmir police, did not respond to their request for comment on the detentions sent via messaging app.

On Monday, APP correspondent at the United Nations, raised the issue of Kashmiri journalists, who are being targeted by the Indian occupation authorities, at a press conference addressed by UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom, Irene Khan.

Responding to his question, she expressed “serious concern” over the suppression of press freedom and ill-treatment of journalists in the disputed territory.

“Our position on human rights violations in Kashmir, are on the record”, Ms. Khan said.

“As you will know from the website of the high commissioner (for human rights’) office, I and other colleagues have regularly commented and criticized the way in which internet shutdowns have taken place in Kashmir, in the way in which journalists have been silenced, arrested, and detained — human rights defenders, as well.”