Four journalists from Kashmir are among seven journalists of India who are currently facing detention under various sections of the law, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Wednesday.
The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide is the highest ever recorded in the 30 years that the Committee has produced its prison census, CPJ statement said.
A record 363 journalists were behind bars as of December 1, 2022, a 20% increase over 2021, CPJ’s annual prison census showed.
According to the CPJ press release, seven journalists who are imprisoned in India as of December 1, 2022, are Aasif Sultan, Siddique Kappan, Gautam Navlakha, Manan Dar, Fahad Shah, Sajad Gul, and Rupesh Kumar Singh.
Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan has been detained since August 2018, first under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and later under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows for preventative detention for up to two years without trial. As of September 2022, he was being held in the Ambedkar Nagar Central Jail, in Uttar Pradesh.Siddique Kappan
Police in Uttar Pradesh arrested journalist Siddique Kappan on October 5, 2020, and are investigating him under various laws, including the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He remained in pretrial detention as of late 2022.
Kappan is a freelance reporter who has covered politics, crime, and current affairs for Malayalam-language news outlets including Azhimukham, Thejus Daily, and Thalsamayam Midday Daily, according to Azhimukham editor K. N. Ashok who spoke to CPJ by phone. Kappan is also the secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, a local trade group in Delhi, Ashok said.
Indian columnist Gautam Navlakha was arrested in April 2020 and was charged under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in October. Before his arrest, Navlakha told CPJ that he believed he was being targeted for his work as a journalist and human rights activist. As of September 2022, his bail petition remained pending at the Bombay High Court.
Navlakha is a columnist at the Newsclick news website, and was formerly an editorial consultant with Economic and Political Weekly, a peer-reviewed academic journal covering the social sciences, he told CPJ before his arrest. He has written frequently on the region of Kashmir and on Maoist separatists.Manan Dar
Jammu and Kashmir police detained freelance journalist Manan Gulzar Dar, also known as Mohammad Manan Dar, in October 2021, and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) accused him of working with militant organizations in violation of the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He is being held in New Delhi.
Dar is a freelance photojournalist who has covered news and conflict in Jammu and Kashmir; he has contributed to Getty Images and the Pacific Press international photo agency, according to the news website The Wire.Fahad Shah
Authorities in Jammu and Kashmiri detained journalist Fahad Shah on February 4, 2022. He faces a series of accusations under the penal code, the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows for preventative detention for up to two years without trial.
Jammu and Kashmir police arrested Shah, founder and editor of the privately owned news website The Kashmir Walla, on February 4, at a police station in the southern Kashmiri city of Pulwama, where he had been summoned earlier that day for questioning, according to news reports and a person familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal by authorities.Sajad Gul
Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have held Kashmiri journalist Sajad Gul under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act since January 2022. The act allows for preventative detention for up to two years without trial.Rupesh Kumar Singh
Indian freelance journalist Rupesh Kumar Singh has been detained since July 2022, and faces three investigations under various laws, including the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, for alleged Maoist activities.
Ipsa Shatakshi, Singh’s wife, told CPJ by phone that she believes authorities targeted Singh in retaliation for his reporting on human rights issues affecting India’s tribal communities, including forced displacement, state militarization, environmental degradation, and alleged extrajudicial killings.The statement further said, “Iran has soared to become the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with 62 imprisoned on December 1, rising from tenth place in 2021, a reflection of authorities’ ruthless crackdown on the women-led uprisings that erupted in September. The regime has imprisoned a record number of female journalists—22 out of the 49 arrested since the start of the protests are women—in an effort to suppress truthful reporting about the demonstrations”.
Iran is followed by China, Myanmar, Turkey, and Belarus, all countries led by autocrats armed with mechanisms to silence the press.
“The record number of journalists in jail is a crisis that mirrors an erosion of democracy globally,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg. “This year’s prison census brings into sharp relief the lengths governments will go to silence reporting that seeks to hold power to account. Criminalizing journalism has impacts far beyond the individual in jail: it stifles vital reporting that helps keep the public safe, informed, and empowered.”
Governments resort to retaliatory charges and the abuse of legal structures to punish the press, such as by crafting legislation with vague wording that criminalizes factual reporting. The 2022 census shows that anti-state charges are used most frequently to imprison journalists, ranging from alleged militancy to sharing information contrary to official narratives. Alarmingly, in 131 cases, no charge has been registered at all, leaving journalists to languish behind bars with little legal recourse, the statement said.
“The prospect of lengthy legal processes and long jail sentences is a way to intimidate journalists into silence. It sows distrust in the media, creating an environment in which abuses of power can flourish,” said Ginsberg.