Srinagar: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has written to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, seeking release of journalist Aasif Sultan, who has been in prison since August 27, 2018 and to drop all legal proceedings against him.
“Freedom of the press is a vital tenet of democracy and a proud part of India’s history. We urge you (Governor) to use the authority vested in you as governor of Jammu and Kashmir to help immediately ensure that Aasif Sultan is released and that the charges against him are dropped,” Steven Butler, Asia Program Coordinator Committee to Protect Journalists wrote to Malik.
CPJ, an independent organization that advocates for press freedom worldwide, said “Journalists have long operated in a dangerous environment in Kashmir, and we are extremely concerned about the climate for press freedom.”
“Sultan, a journalist with the Kashmir Narrator, has been falsely accused under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. His name was included in a First Information Report filed after a gunfight in Batamaloo on August 12, and he has been accused of having contact with and promoting militants,” the statement said.
CJP said Sultan’s editor and family have credibly disputed these claims and said his work was strictly that of a journalist gathering news.
“No charge sheet has been filed,” it said.
In July 2018, Sultan wrote a cover story for the Kashmir Narrator on militant Burhan Wani, which included interviews with non-combatant members of Hizbul Mujahideen.
“Police have reportedly subjected Sultan to repeated interrogation during his detention regarding the article, asking him to reveal his sources and why he reported on the conflict in Kashmir, as well as questions on headlines that appeared in the Kashmir Narrator and why he had not reported on development in the state.”
Police have also objected in court to his Facebook posts, CPJ said.
“We understand that Jammu and Kashmir is facing a difficult situation, but CPJ would like to stress that interviewing or having sources who are critical of the government is within the scope of a journalists’ job and does not implicate them in a crime. Reporting on an important and newsworthy story such as the conflict in Kashmir is a public service, not a criminal act.”
CPJ said Journalists have long operated in a dangerous environment in Kashmir, and the organisation was extremely concerned about the climate for press freedom.