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Editors Guild slams Fahad Shah arrest, says media freedom has ‘progressively eroded’ in Kashmir

The Guild says the arrest is part of a growing trend by Kashmir's security forces in targeting journalists for their 'critical reporting of the establishment'.

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New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India Sunday issued a “strong” condemnation of the arrest of journalist and Kashmir Walla editor Fahad Shah, stating that the police arrested him on “specious ground”.

Shah had been arrested late Friday for allegedly “glorifying terrorist activities and “inciting the public”, as Kashmir Police added that the journalist had been named in two prior cases.

According to the Guild, Shah has been “summoned and detained” on numerous occasions in relation to the contents of his writing.

Furthermore, the Guild claims that Shah’s arrest forms part of a growing trend by Kashmir’s security forces in targeting, questioning and arresting journalists for their “critical reporting of the establishment”.

“The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir,” the Guild added, emphasising the importance of respecting “democratic values”.

Read the full statement here:

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 & inciting general public for creating [law and order] situation,” as per a police statement post his arrest.

Shah had been questioned four days earlier for his reporting on a deadly police raid in Pulwama in late January that left four people dead. He has been summoned and detained multiple times for his writing over the past few years. 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. In a separate incident, journalist Gowhar Geelani has also been summoned by the executive magistrate of Shopian district to appear in court on February 7 for “acting in a manner prejudicial to public interest”. Last month, Sajad Gul, another journalist of Kashmir Walla, was also arrested because of his social media posts that were considered objectionable by the authorities.

The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir. Last month, security forces abetted some journalists in a coup of the Kashmir Press Club management, and then later on state authorities shut down the club completely, reverting the land back to the Estates department.

The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security. 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.

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