India: Jammu and Kashmir police raid journalists’ homes

This statement was originally published on on 10 September 2021.

On September 8, Jammu and Kashmir authorities raided the homes of four journalists in Srinagar before their temporary detainment and questioning. The International Federation of Journalists and its affiliate the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) condemn repressive acts by police intended to stifle press freedom.

Showkat Motta, the editor of Kashmir Narrator magazine; Hilal Mir, a reporter for the Turkey-based news outlet TRT World; and freelance journalists Azhar Qadri and Abbas Shah all had documents and electronic equipment seized. The searches were reported to have been conducted by both police and paramilitary troops.

Following the raids, the four journalists were summoned for questioning at local police stations in Srinagar, where they were held for a day, and have been summoned to return next week for further questioning.

“They seized a hard drive which contained my work, a desktop, hardcopies of the magazine’s archives and phones. I was later taken to the police station and set free in the evening,” said Motta, one of the detained journalists.

A senior police official stated that the journalists were being questioned regarding suspected links to “Kashmir Fight”, a blog allegedly run from Pakistan. A senior police official said that the four journalists were probed on the website’s origins.

The website, which is subject to an ongoing investigation by Indian police, is alleged to have published material that threatens journalists and political activists. A journalist from the region commented on the irony of the situation that journalists were being questioned about a website that actively endangers members of their profession.

After India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status in 2019, the world’s longest running lockdown of telecommunications and internet also served to stifle journalism in the region. Journalists in Kashmir continue to operate in an increasingly fraught environment with attacks and increasing harassment.

The IJU president Geetartha Pathak said: “IJU is surprised to know that Kashmir police and the authorities are often violating media rights and press freedom in the valley, despite journalists and civil right bodies raising strong objection and condemning these violations of press freedom. IJU demands the authorities stop such harassment against the press.”

The IFJ said: “These raids are evident attempts from authorities to intimidate journalists and media workers in the Jammu and Kashmir region. The IFJ condemns these violations of press freedom and calls for the immediate cessation of police harassment towards journalists.”

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Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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