Press Statement

India: Journalist arrested two days after release

06 Mar, 2024

Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan has been arrested two days after his release on bail, with the journalist charged and detained without trial for the third time in over five years. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU), condemn the arbitrary arrest and continued legal harassment of Aasif Sultan, and urge Indian authorities to uphold their constitutional commitments to press freedom and withdraw all charges immediately.

Sultan, the editor of shuttered media outlet Kashmir Walla, was first arrested in August 2018 on allegations of ‘harbouring known militants’ and an unspecified involvement with serious crimesunder the widely-criticised Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The journalist was released on bail on April 5, 2022, after a special National Investigation Agency court found the state had failed to adequately prove his involvement with any militant group, but was arrested five days later on April 10 under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows pre-trial detention of up to two years.

The journalist was again released on bail from a prison in the central-northern state of Uttar Pradesh on February 27, 2024, over two months after a Jammu and Kashmir High Court decision that his detention was illegal, no credible evidence had been presented by authorities, and that he was to be set free.

Sultan was summoned to the Rainawari police station on February 29, where he was again arrested. The journalist’s re-arrest was reportedly related to his alleged involvement with violence in a Srinagar jail in 2019, with Sultan again charged under the UAPA for sections related to rioting, unlawful assembly, murder, and the encouragement of criminal activity.

Sultan was presented in a local court in Srinagar on March 1, and ordered to remain in police custody until March 5. The journalist’s legal representation has reported the case is due to be heard on March 6. Sultan’s rearrest has invoked anger among journalist unions and the broader media community, with the Free Speech Collective calling the journalist’s detention yet another example of ‘lawfare’, or the abuse of laws to target journalists.

The IJU said: “Sultan’s rearrest reveals the authorities’ clear intent of silencing critical voices and clamping down on independent journalism in the Valley. Arresting journalists for their reportage and other journalistic activities and keeping them indefinitely in jail without trial under draconian law is nothing but a frontal attack on freedom of the press and the IJU demands he be granted bail and that the trumped-up charges against him be withdrawn.”

The IFJ said: “Aasif Sultan’s arrest is deeply concerning, and reveals how draconian laws like UAPA can be turned against media practitioners. The media must be free to operate without fear of reprisal, especially when journalists can be arbitrarily and illegally held for over half a decade. The IFJ condemns the arrest, and calls on Indian authorities to withdraw all charges against the journalist immediately.”

Written By

IFJ Asia-Pacific IFJ Asia-Pacific

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