Editors Guild calls for Kashmir-based journalist’s arrest charges to be made public

Assistant Editor of Kashmir Narrator, Aasif Sultan was in police custody for six days in detention

The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) on Monday called for the charges to be made public by the Jammu and Kashmir police against Kashmir-based journalist Asif Sultan who was earlier detained for six days and then formally arrested.

The guild also took exception to the “notices” being sent to newspapers. It said that there are disturbing reports about reporters being asked to disclose sources, something that has not happened even during the emergency.

“Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) has reiterated that freedom of speech cannot be suspended even if the assembly is in suspended animation. The Guild in a marathon meeting discussed and deliberated upon various developments that hugely weaken this constitutional right. While the newspapers have routinely started getting ‘notices’ to explain things that have gone into print, there are very disturbing reports about reporters being asked to disclose sources, something that has not happened even during the emergency.

“Recently a magazine journalist Aasif Sultan was detained. Police have registered a formal FIR after detaining him for six days. KEG believes the police must make public the charges against him. The “incriminating material”, the police have stated in a routine statement is too vague to be accepted as a reason. The law enforcing agencies must understand the reality that every journalist’s laptop will have “incriminating” material because data collection is the fundamental activity of the reporters,” the statement read.

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“In this case, KEG reiterated that a reporter cannot be forced to reveal his sources and it is considered illegal across the democracies of the world. The KEG discussed in detail the situation that has emerged because of social media. While the social media has the power of disrupting the routine life – as happened on August 30, on the issue of Article 35(A) hearing, the emphasis of all the stakeholders must be to strengthen the formal media,” the statement added.

“It was media and not the police force that helped cool the situation by reporting the actual happening in the Supreme Court. The editor’s body regretted that certain law enforcing agencies are not understanding the net difference and are attempting using the same stick for all, which can add to the crisis. Discussing the situation with regard to media, the KEG said that Jammu and Kashmir being in a state a disturbing situation for a long time must encourage conversation while information routinely flows,” said the statement.

“The law enforcing agencies must keep this in mind while overreacting to the writing that come from the other side of the political divide. This, the members said, is essential in reducing the pressure cooker situation that is gradually building in Kashmir at huge social, economic and human costs. The KEG regretted that the police have not been able to file a charge sheet in the broad daylight murder of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, so far. This was despite the fact that the police claimed to have solved the case,” the guild stated.

ALSO READ: Arrest of Kashmir-based journalist: Police version

“The KEG regretted that the institutions of facilitation of media are gradually limping towards becoming a centre of instability for the institution of media. The editor’s body set up a series of committees to take care of certain crucial issues pertaining to the working of the media and decided about the outreach outside the print space so that role of media and social media is clearly educated about. It was also decided to have a pro-active outreach plan for engaging the policymaking and the journalism aspirants for a better understanding of the media operations and the Kashmir Story,” the guild proclaimed.

After being arrested in a nocturnal raid at his Batamaloo residence on Monday, Aasif Sultan, Kashmir-based journalist, who is the Assistant Editor of the monthly magazine Kashmir Narrator has been languishing in police custody since a week now, his father said.

However, the cops have said that Aasif has been formally arrested and the case is being dealt by the Superintendent of Police (South).

While returning from Police Station Batmaloo, Mohammad Sultan, Aasif’s father informed FPK that his son, a “diligent journalist” was picked up by the forces at around 2 in the intervening night of August 26-27. He reckons that he is in trouble for a story that was published in the magazine.

“The story was about Burhan Wani,” Sultan said. “Now, they picked him up for no crime of his.”

It is for the first time that Aasif has landed in trouble for fulfilling his professional duties, he said.

“I am coming from the police station. I told them I will not sign any papers. First, they pick him up and now they are saying they will formally arrest him,” he said.

A top police official from Batmaloo informed FPK that Aasif has been locked up in the police station Batamaloo and that his case will be handled by the court.

“There is a proper process behind it,” the officer said. “He was picked up for questioning and we needed to formally arrest him. Now the case will go to the court. SP [South] is handling it.”


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