New Delhi: Kashmir-based journalist Fahad Shah, editor of the news portal The Kashmir Wala, was arrested Friday night for allegedly “glorifying terrorist activities and “inciting the public”.
The case, filed in Pulwama, also accuses him of “provoking the public to disturb law and order” through his posts on his website and social media. According to the FIR, the case pertains to alleged social media posts made by Shah.
Kashmir Police said Saturday that he was named in two similar cases in the past.
Fahad Shah is wanted in 3 cases for glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news & inciting general public for creating L&O situations: FIR No. 70/2020 of PS Safakadal Srinagar, FIR No. 06/2021 of PS Imamsahib, Shopian & currently has been arrested in FIR No. 19/2022 of PS Pulwama.
— Kashmir Zone Police (@KashmirPolice) February 5, 2022
One case was registered in 2020 in Srinagar, and another in Shopian in 2021, they added.
The arrest has been criticised as an attack on press freedom by Kashmiri personalities as well as journalists from other parts of India.
The Pulwama FIR invokes sections 505 (referring to statements conducing to public mischief, intent to inciting a community against another, among other things) and 124 (A) or sedition of the IPC, besides Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
“It was reliably learnt by Pulwama Police that some Facebook users and portals have been uploading anti-national content including photographs, videos and posts with criminal intention to create fear among public and the content so uploaded can provoke the public to disturb law & order,” says the FIR, a copy of which is with ThePrint.
“It was also learnt that these Facebook users are uploading such posts which tantamount to glorifying the terrorist activities and causing dent to the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing ill-will & disaffection against the country.”
During the course of the investigation, police said, Fahad Shah was identified as an accused and arrested.
Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar said the facts of the case are being looked into. “The journalist has been arrested in the case lodged in Pulwama… The investigation is on. Action will follow in other FIRs also,” he added. “We appeal to journalists to not spread fake news and verify all details from the police before circulating.”
‘Bid to silence media’
Kashmiri writer Mirza Waheed expressed shock at Shah’s arrest, and alleged “a brazen campaign to silence the media in Kashmir”.
I'm shocked to hear that Fahad Shah (@pzfahad ), journalist and editor of @tkwmag has been arrested by the police in Kashmir. Reports say one of the charges is sedition. The Indian government is on a brazen campaign to silence the media in Kashmir.
— Mirza Waheed (@MirzaWaheed) February 4, 2022
He added that Shah’s “arrest is part of the sustained campaign that started well before the erasure of 370”.
“Delhi has known for some time that the press in Kashmir has evolved into a powerful force for good. India doesn’t like Kashmiris speaking to the world in their words,” he said.
— naresh fernandes (@tajmahalfoxtrot) February 5, 2022
Meanwhile, in a separate development, the executive magistrate of Shopian district has directed journalist Gowhar Nazir Geelani to appear in court on 7 February for “acting in a manner prejudicial to public interest that have a tendency to disturb public peace (sic)”,
The notice to initiate preventive action was sent by the magistrate under Section 107 of the CrPC. The notice is issued in cases where an executive magistrate receives information about any person who is “likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity or to do any wrongful act”.
According to the notice, a copy of which is with ThePrint, on 1 February, terrorists shot at a policeman in Amshipora, following which Geelani disseminated information on social media that would have “endangered the life of injured individuals and other persons”.
“After the incident, you have acted in a manner prejudicial to public interest that have tendency to disturb public peace, tranquillity and security, and I have strong apprehensions that you will continue with such activities that will have an impact upon maintainable (sic) of peace and public tranquillity in my jurisdiction,” the notice says.
In 2020, Geelani was booked under the UAPA in connection with his social media posts.
This report has been updated with a comment from Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)