The Editors Guild of India has strongly condemned the arrest of Fahad Shah, the editor-in-chief of online news portal The Kashmir Walla, held on Friday, 4 February, after the police registered a case against him in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.
The journalist was arrested on Friday for allegedly sharing social media posts with "anti-national content" with "criminal intention" that aimed to disturb law and order, said the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police.
Reacting to his arrest, the EGI said that the police had arrested him on “specious ground," adding that the space for media freedom has "progressively eroded" in Kashmir.
The Guild further stated that Shah’s arrest forms part of a growing trend in Kashmir by security forces for questioning and detaining journalists for their “critical reporting of the establishment”.
"The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security," the statement read.
The EGI also demanded the release of journalist Sajad Gul, who was arrested in January.
Arrest Raises Debate About Fate of Journalism: PUDR
Meanwhile, in a statement, the People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) said that the arrest "raises a debate about the fate of journalism in times of conflict".
The PUDR argued that "presenting both sides of the story, as Shah does, does not tantamount to glorification of terrorism; it is a part of objective reportage".
"...if the police is able to discern ‘intention’ in social media posts and in journalistic pieces, then fundamental freedoms have no meaning outside of what the police feels and believes," the statement by PUDR further said.
It is time for the political opposition to argue for the repeal of undemocratic laws and to ensure that a democratic polity does not become a police property.PUDR statement
The PUDR statement then went on to demand the unconditional release of Fahad Shah and other journalists, repeal of the UAPA and removal of Section 124 A of the IPC.
Why the Arrest?
A police statement accused “some Facebook users and portals” of “uploading anti national content including photographs, videos and posts with criminal intention to create fear among the public and the content so uploaded can provoke the public to disturb the law and order”.
His posts allegedly glorified terrorist activities, causing a "dent to the image" of law-enforcement agencies, and caused "ill-will and disaffection" against the country," the police claimed, reported The Indian Express.
Police said they have registered a First Information Report 19/2022 at Pulwama Police Station in south Kashmir and identified Shah as “one accused person” who was taken on a police remand.
(With inputs from The Indian Express.)