SRINAGAR, India (AP) – The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Indian authorities to immediately release a journalist in disputed Kashmir, days after police arrested him for posting a clip video of a demonstration against Indian domination.
The media watchdog said on Saturday it was “deeply disturbed” by the arrest of Sajad Gul, a freelance journalist and media student. He wrote on Twitter that he was calling on Indian authorities to “drop their investigation into his work as a journalist.”
Indian soldiers picked up Gul from his home in the northeastern village of Shahgund on Wednesday evening and then handed him over to police, his family said. He had posted a video of family members and relatives protesting the murder of a rebel commander on Monday.
Initially, police said he would be released, but on Friday his family learned that an official case had been opened against Gul for criminal conspiracy and working against national integration. If found guilty, he risks life imprisonment or even the death penalty.
Journalists have increasingly expressed concerns over harassment and threats from the police which effectively restricted reporting after India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomy and divided the region into two federally ruled territories in 2019.
Many journalists have been arrested, beaten, harassed and are sometimes the subject of investigations under anti-terrorism laws.
The Kashmir Press Club, an elected group of journalists in the region, has repeatedly urged the Indian government to allow them to report freely, saying security agencies are using physical attacks, threats and summons to silence the hurry.
India’s decision to strip the region of special powers in August 2019 virtually crippled journalism in Kashmir for months. India began implementing a policy in 2020 that gives the government more power to censor independent reporting.
Fearing reprisals from government agencies, most of the local press has faded under the pressure. Journalists have also come under scrutiny through anonymous online threats that the government says are linked to rebels battling Indian rule.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim it fully.
Since 1989, a full-fledged armed rebellion has raged in Indian-controlled Kashmir in search of a united Kashmir, either under Pakistani rule or independent of the two countries. The region is one of the most militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
The Associated Press