New Delhi: Responding to the arrest of Kashmiri journalist, Irfan Mehraj, in Srinagar by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India in connection with a “militancy funding case”, Amnesty International has termed it yet another crackdown on media freedom in Jammu and Kashmir.
Aakar Patel, chair of the board at Amnesty International India, in a statement said: “The arrest of Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj under terror charges is a travesty. The arrest is yet another instance of the long-drawn repression of human rights and the crackdown on media freedoms and civil society in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. The stifling of the rights to freedom of expression and association continue unabated in Kashmir.”
“Human rights defenders such as Irfan Mehraj should be encouraged and protected, not persecuted. He must be immediately released. The repression must stop. Criminalization of legitimate human rights work is extremely alarming and the authorities must put an end to this immediately,” he said.
He added, “Indian authorities should prioritize ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders and journalists have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure that human rights defenders and activists can work in a safe and enabling environment without any fear of reprisals.”
Irfan was arrested in Srinagar by the NIA on 20 March under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
He is the founding editor of Wande Magazine and now works as a senior editor at TwoCircles.net. He has contributed to leading news publications like The Indian Express, Al Jazeera, Himal Southasian, DW and TRT World.
As per NIA’s statement, Irfan worked at Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) which was “funding terror activities”. He worked with the Kashmiri activist and human rights defender Khurram Parvez.
Previously, Amnesty International with ten other leading human rights organizations has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Khurram Parvez, who was arrested on November 22, 2021 on politically motivated terrorism and other charges.
Amnesty International has also documented the intensive crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders in Kashmir, with more than 60 instances in the three years since August 2019. Amnesty International has also previously called on Indian authorities to repeal or substantially amend the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the statement said.