Aasif Sultan, a journalist from Indian occupied Kashmir, was held by Jammu and Kashmir police in the early hours of the morning of August 27 following an article published in the Kashmir Narrator. Sultan, who serves as the assistant editor of the monthly magazine, was illegally detained for six days and questioned about stories published in the magazine.
He was presented to the court on Sept. 1 but kept in police custody on charges of involvement with militancy. His family and the magazine denied all the allegations.
While in custody, Sultan was questioned about the story he published in the June issue of the magazine about Burhan Wani, a slain commander of a Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen. Police seized his laptop, phone, and other documents.
The Indian Journalist's Union, Kashmir Editor's Guild and International Federation of Journalists, Kashmir Working Journalist's Association, and the Kashmir Journalist's Association have all condemned the arrest and demanded his immediate release.
The Indian Journalist's Union criticized police for falsely charging Sultan for his alleged “complicity for harboring known terrorists involved in a series of terror crimes,” and went on to say these actions were a clear attack on freedom of the press.
This is not the first time a journalist has been picked up for questioning and illegally detained in Kashmir by the Indian state. On Sept. 2017, Kamran Yusuf, a photojournalist from Kashmir was picked up by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) and detained for more than six months in Delhi. He was charged with “stone-pelting” on Jan. 2018. He was also accused by the state of being involved in militancy. The NIA also lectured Yusuf on ethical journalism and advised him to cover developmental stories. He was finally released on bail in March 2018.
On June 14 and 15, another journalist Aqib Javed Hakim from a daily newspaper, the Kashmir Observer was summoned by NIA to Delhi and interrogated over an interview with a separatist leader.
Indian Journalist's Union President SN Sihna said: “The IJU regrets that the Center is using the NIA as a tool to harass the journalists in Kashmir and alienating them from the mainstream. Doing interviews are part of the journalists’ duties and not a national security threat. We request the Home Minister immediately intervene and stop the harassment of the journalists.”
The brutal assassination of Rising Kashmir Editor Shujaat Bukhari on June 14 outside of his office by unidentified gunmen shows the grim reality of journalism in Kashmir.