NEW DELHI — International press body Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the Indian government to immediately stop its harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir and to allow them to work freely. Authorities have detained at least two journalists in the past week amid tensions and the communications blackout in the region.
“Severing all communications links is already an astounding violation of press freedom. Detaining journalists as Kashmir approaches nearly two weeks of this blackout is one more form of intimidation and obstruction of the media,” said CPJ Senior Asia Research Associate Aliya Iftikhar, in New York. “India should respect its constitution and democracy, and uphold the essential value of press freedom in Kashmir and elsewhere.”
Indian troops arrested Irfan Malik, a reporter for the Greater Kashmir newspaper, at his home in Tral, a town in south Kashmir, on August 14, according to news reports. Three journalists who are from Kashmir and who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity for security reasons said they heard that the journalist was released on bond this morning.
Malik’s father, Mohammad Amin Malik, told reporters that security forces picked up the journalist at the family home at around 11:30 p.m. “We asked for reasons behind his arrest, they decline to say anything,” he said. Because communications have been severed, the journalist’s parents traveled to Srinagar, about an hour from their home, on August 15 to tell the press about Malik’s arrest.
Mohammad Malik said that when he contacted Tahir Saleem, superintendent of police in nearby Awantipora, for help, the superintendent asked if Malik had written any controversial stories, according to The Print. “We told him the newspapers have been closed so how could he. He responded that there is nothing to worry about… he will be released,” Mohammad Malik said.
CPJ said it was unable to speak directly with Malik’s family members due to the limited access to communications. The CPJ previously reported that Greater Kashmir was printing smaller editions at the start of the crackdown. Its website has not been updated since August 5.
Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh and Rohit Kansal, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment about Malik’s arrest, sent via messaging app. Saleem told The Indian Express that he had met with the journalist’s family and was looking into the case.
Separately, Jammu and Kashmir police detained Haziq Qadri, a correspondent for the news website Brut India, for about 12 hours on August 11, according to a family member, whose name is being withheld due to security concerns. The relative said that he received a 40-second call from Qadri, in which the journalist said he had been detained at the Safa Kadal police station after shooting videos. Police confiscated Qadri’s phone and did not return it when he was released the next morning, the relative said.
A colleague of Qadri’s in New Delhi, who is not authorized to speak to the media, told CPJ that Qadri was not in Kashmir on an official assignment. Qadri is from Kashmir, but based in New Delhi.
The arrests come amid a crackdown in the area after the Indian government announced on August 5 that it would revoke a constitutional provision that granted limited autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, and introduced measures that would change its administrative status to a union territory. Since August 4, nearly all communications in the region have been blocked.