asia - pacific

Reporters' rights group seeks release of Kashmir writer

Aasif Sultan, Kashmir-based journalist, has been in police detention since last August

  | 16.01.2019
Reporters' rights group seeks release of Kashmir writer

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is seeking the immediate release of a Kashmiri journalist from police detention.

In an open letter to Satya Pal Malik, Jammu and Kashmir’s governor, CPJ’s Asian Program Coordinator Steven Butler urged the dropping of all legal proceedings against Asif Sultan, who has been in detention since last August.

“Sultan, a journalist with the Kashmir Narrator [magazine], has been falsely accused under the Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act […] he has been accused of having contact with and promoting militants. His editor and family have credibly disputed these claims and say his work was strictly that of a journalist gathering news,” the CPJ said in the letter, also addressed to Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Last July Sultan wrote a cover story for the magazine on the rise of young militant commander Burhan Wani, who was killed by Indian forces in 2016.

The CPJ said the Jammu and Kashmir Police have reportedly subjected Sultan to repeated interrogation during his detention, asking him to reveal his sources and "why he reported on the conflict in Kashmir."

“Interviewing or having sources who are critical of the government is within the scope of a journalists’ job and does not implicate them in a crime. Reporting on an important and newsworthy story such as the conflict in Kashmir is a public service, not a criminal act,” said the letter.

A recent report by The New Arab website said that 21 journalists have so far been killed in Kashmir, either directly targeted or caught in the crossfire while reporting, as dozens more face hardships in their daily jobs.

"We are extremely concerned about the climate for press freedom," said the letter.

The reporters' rights group urged the governor “to use the authority vested in you as governor of Jammu and Kashmir to help immediately ensure that Aasif Sultan is released and that the charges against him are dropped."

Regional history

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.

Also, in the Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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