The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Sunday condemned the, the editor of “The Kashmir Walla” news portal, and demanded his immediate release, urging the Jammu and Kashmir administration to “stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security”.
In a statement, the editors’ body also demanded the immediate release of another journalist, Sajad Gul, who was arrested in Kashmir last month.
The EGI noted that Shah was arrested on the “specious ground” of glorifying terrorist activities, spreading fake news and inciting the public for creating a law-and-order situation, and said the space for media freedom has “progressively eroded” in Kashmir.
“The guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security,” it said.
“The guild also demands immediate release of Fahad Shah as well as Sajad Gul, and to ensure that FIRs under harsh penal laws, intimidatory questioning and wrongful detainment are not used as tools for suppressing journalists’ rights,” it added.
The Jammu and Kashmir police arrested Shah on Friday for allegedly uploading anti-national content on social media with a “criminal intention” to provoke the public to disturb law and order.
The EGI noted that Shah was earlier questioned for four days over his reporting on “a deadly police raid” in Pulwama in late January that left four people dead.
“The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the arrest of Fahad Shah, the editor of ‘The Kashmir Walla’, on February 4, 2022, on the specious ground of ‘glorifying terrorist activities, spreading fake news and inciting general public for creating law and order situation’, as per a police statement post his arrest,” it said.
Over the last few years, Shah was summoned and detained “multiple times” for his writings, the editors’ body noted.
“This arrest is part of a larger trend in Kashmir of security forces calling journalists for questioning and often detaining them, because of their critical reporting of the establishment,” it said.
In a separate incident, the EGI said, journalist Gowhar Geelani has also been summoned by the executive magistrate of Shopian district to appear in court on Monday for “acting in a manner prejudicial to public interest”.
Last month, Sajad Gul, another journalist of “The Kashmir Walla”, was also arrested because of his social media posts that were considered objectionable by the authorities, the guild noted.
“The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir,” it observed.
Last month, security forces “abetted” some journalists “in a coup” of the Kashmir Press Club management and “the state authorities later shut down the club completely, reverting the land back to the Estates department,” the EGI said.