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Press club concerned over Journalists interrogated in counterinsurgency center of Kashmir Police while demand grows for release of top lawyer from Jail

The Kashmir Press Club said that since last Aug. 5, Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its political autonomy, the government is not enabling journalists and media to operate freely.

As if the six-month internet shutdown was not enough, physical attacks, threats, and summons to journalists are being employed by security agencies to intimidate journalists, statement issued by a meeting of the club, which has more than 270 journalist members.

The meeting was called two days after Naseer Ahmad Ganai, who works for Indian newsmagazine Outlook, and Haroon Nabi, a reporter with local news agency CNS, were questioned at the key counterinsurgency center of Kashmir Police, called Cargo, in the regional capital Srinagar.

Both published statements issued by the banned separatist organization Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front calling for a strike on Feb. 9 and Feb. 11, the death anniversaries of Kashmiris Afzal Guru, who was hanged for his alleged role in an attack on India’s parliament, and Maqbool Bhat, the front’s founder, who was hanged in 1984.

Both said they were told to reveal how they received the statement – which was emailed to all journalists and news organizations – besides information about their families and close relatives.

Harassment and interrogative of journalists in Kashmir by the police on fragile grounds is a damning verdict on the appalling conditions in which the media is operating, the strongest in the past six months.

The statement cited the examples of journalists Irfan Amin Malik picked up by policemen from his home on Aug. 14, 2019 and detained overnight at police station; Peerzada Ashiq questioned by police and pressured to reveal sources of my story on detentions; Zubair Dar and Muzamil Matoo beaten in November while covering prayers at a shrine; and Azaan Javaid and Anees Zargar beaten up by police while covering a student protest.

On Nov. 30, the club statement, Basharat Masood Indian Express and Hakeem Irfan Economic Times were summoned to the Cargo center and grilled by the police for their stories. The duo was stopped on Dec. 23 by the police in Handwara while researching a story and taken to the office of the police superintendent. They were told that they are trying to provoke people.

The questioning of the two prompted a delegation of journalists to meet a top police official. A reporter present in the meeting on the condition of secrecy that the police official told the delegation in a very genial manner that everybody is behaving well. Only media and militants are not behaving well’.

 

 

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders issued an urgent appeal on Feb. 5 against the “arbitrary” detention and deteriorating health of Mian Abdul Qayoom.

JKHCBA Chairman Mian Qayum

Qayoom is the President of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA). In late January, his family and friends declared Qayoom had suffered heart attack which prompted the group to ask the Indian government to release Qayoom and other human rights defenders.

Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Qayoom and give him immediate and unconditional access to the medical attention he requires. Qayoom, 73, was arrested on Aug. 4 last year in a massive crackdown in which thousands of people were reportedly detained in the run-up to stripping Jammu and Kashmir of statehood and semi-autonomous status on Aug. 5. He was detained in a jail in India’s Uttar Pradesh province from where he was transferred to Tihar jail in New Delhi following the deterioration in his health.

The Aug. 5 move by India was backed by boosting troop levels in an already heavily militarized region, imposing curfews and cutting communication lines. High-speed internet in the region is still blocked. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint program of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and France-based International Federation of Human Rights.

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