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Hundreds of academicians, journalists appeal UN Special Rapporteur to stop intimidation of Kashmiri journalists

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Members of the Kashmir Scholars Consultative Action Network have written to Prof David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression regarding the harassment of journalists in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The letter, endorsed by hundreds of other academics, journalists, writers and researchers from around the world, seeks “immediate intervention” of the Special Rapporteur to urgently intervene in the continued silencing tactics used by the Indian government to harass and incarcerate working journalists, the latest case being of Masrat Zahra who was charged with UAPA on April 20. TwoCircles.net board member Raqib Hameed Naik is also one of the signatories to the letter.

The open letter lists some of the most prominent Kashmiri journalists who have been illegally detained, charged or incarcerated merely for reporting the government’s activities in the Valley. Criminal charges lodged against Peerzada Aashiq,  Gowhar Geelani, Azan Javaid, Basharat Masood, including several others who were on duty have been victims of the continued persecution and intimidation by the police and authorities who have “grilled and summoned”, and even “pressured” to either omit or reveal their sources during the longest communication lockdown that was imposed by the Indian government after scrapping Article 370.

The letter mentions how Shujaat Bukhari was assassinated at his residence, drawing attention to more such names who have been wrongly charged of criminal offences and tortured by the military. In an appeal to the Rapporteur, the letter goes on to sound support of the Kashmir Press Club, Editors Guild of India , the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International; all of who have called for “an immediate end to intimidation of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Addressing the journalism community worldwide, the letter then throws light to the “misuse of power” stating that the Kashmir Working Journalists Association recognizes the UAPA charges against Kashmiri journalists as an effort to “terrorise the media,” asserting that “authorities in Kashmir are in no mood to allow a democratic dissent or expression of opinion, and have adopted the policy of muzzling the press as a governance measure.”

Asif Sultan and Qazi Shibli who had been imprisoned and others who were held without charge or trial back-to-back under the Public Safety Act gave also been mentioned to highlight “the bullying tactics used by the state to silence young Kashmiris who use social media to express their opinion as well as the crackdown on independent journalism.”

Urging the global community to respond to the “constant siege” on Freedom of Press by the Indian authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the signatories have requested for an “an immediate dismissal of all charges against Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Aashiq and Gowhar Geelani, as well as the immediate release of Asif Sultan”, thereby asserting the need for critical and necessary independent journalism in amid the deteriorating situation of lack of freedom of press in Kashmir.