Jammu & Kashmir

Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah released after nearly two years in jail

Fahad Shah.

Srinagar: Almost a week after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court granted bail to 35-year-old Fahad Shah, editor of the news portal The Kashmir Walla (banned), returned home on Thursday after nearly two years in jail.

On November 17, the court quashed certain charges he was facing including: “abetting terrorism, waging war against the country and promoting enmity” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Fahad, who is editor of a local news magazine and portal, “The Kashmir Walla”, according to Srinagar based news agency Kashmir Dot Com, was first arrested in FIR No 19/2022 registered by Pulwama police under 13 Unlawful activities of which interim bail was granted by the special court

Police had earlier said, “Fahad Shah is wanted in 3 cases for glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news & inciting general public for creating L&O situations: FIR No. 70/2020 of PS Safakadal Srinagar, FIR No. 06/2021 of PS Imamsahib, Shopian and FIR No. 19/2022 of PS Pulwama.”

Fahad Shah has been in jail for 21 months under Public Safety Action (PSA), after being booked under sections of the UAPA over reporting and articles published by his portal since 2011.

The court quashed charges levelled against Shah under sections 18 (abetting the commission of, a terrorist act or any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act), 121 (waging war) and 153-B (promoting enmity between different groups) of the UAPA.

However, Shah will continue to face trial under section 13 (incites unlawful activity) of the UAPA and 35, 39 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), which deals with receiving funds in violation of law.

The bail comes seven months after the J&K High Court quashed Shah’s detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA), saying “the apprehension of an adverse impact to public order is a mere surmise of the detaining authority”.

The journalist was arrested in February 2022 over a report carried on his portal about a military operation in Pulwama. The police accused him of “uploading anti-national content, including photographs, videos and posts with criminal intention to create fear among public”.

He was later booked under provisions of the UAPA. He has managed to secure bail in three cases so far.

However the PSA allows preventive detention up to two years. His arrest evoked sharp reactions from the media fraternity within and beyond Kashmir.

At least 50 press freedom organisations, human rights groups and publications wrote to J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on February 14, seeking Shah’s immediate release and the withdrawal of all police investigations launched into his journalistic work.

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