Filing terror charges against journalist Aasif Sultan without evidence undermines press freedom in Kashmir: CPJ

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called upon the Jammu and Kashmir police to immediately cease all legal proceedings against journalist Aasif Sultan and release him from jail after formal charges were filed against him on Thursday.

Sultan, along with nine other individuals, has been charged with harbouring and giving support to a militant organisation and for hatching a criminal conspiracy under India’s Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

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In a statement CPJ said: “Filing terrorism-related charges against journalist Aasif Sultan, despite a complete lack of evidence, marks a terrible injustice and further undermines press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, from Washington, D.C. “Is it so hard to understand that journalists, in the normal course of their work, must make contact with the people they write about?”

Sultan has been jailed since August 27, 2018, after he wrote a story for the Kashmir Narrator magazine on Kashmiri militant leader Burhan Wani, as CPJ reported at the time, the statement said.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) had condemned the arrest of Aasif Sultan and demanded his ‘immediate release’ in a statement issued.

The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society had also condemned the arrest of Aasif Sultan.

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“Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) condemns these arrests and hopes that people in India and institutions would rise to this occasion and express unconditional solidarity with these activists and all those who in a similar manner are being targeted by the ruling class for the work which is produced by them. This sustained stifling of the dissent has made India an absolute majoritarian and authoritarian regime,” the statement read.

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had called for “immediate and unconditional” release of Sultan, “in violation of all criminal procedure rules for the past ten days”.

“Detaining a journalist without any serious evidence to support the charges against him is unacceptable,” Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, had said in a statement.

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