June 13, 2002
The Honorable Lal Krishna Advani
Home Minister, Republic of India
New Delhi, India 110 011
Via Facsimile: 91-11-301-4221
The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the arrest of Iftikhar Gilani, the New Delhi bureau chief for the Jammu-based newspaper Kashmir Times and a regular contributor to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, as well as to the Pakistani newspapers The Friday Times and The Nation.
At around 5 a.m. on June 9, officers from various agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, the Special Branch of Police, and the Income Tax Department, raided Gilani’s house in New Delhi. Authorities confiscated Gilani’s computer and several documents, including bank statements, according to his wife. Gilani was arrested at his home around 9:30 p.m.
Police accused Gilani of possessing classified documents and arrested him under the provisions of India’s Official Secrets Act, a draconian law that is a legacy of British colonial rule. On June 10, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sangita Dhingra Sehgal ordered Gilani back to police custody for five days.
The only evidence against Gilani cited by the government so far is a public document released in 1995 by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry that includes information about alleged human rights abuses committed by Indian troops in Kashmir, according to R.M. Tufail, Gilani’s lawyer. India and Pakistan have competing claims of sovereignty over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Gilani’s detention coincided with the arrest the same day of his father-in-law, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a senior separatist leader in Kashmir.
Iftikhar Gilani’s colleagues say the journalist has a reputation for balanced and independent reporting and fear that he has been targeted unfairly. A petition signed by many leading journalists in New Delhi urges the government “to ensure that the investigation is fair and that Gilani does not face any harassment or ill-treatment at the hands of the authorities” and notes that, “Any information in his possession must also be evaluated in the light of his professional requirements as a journalist.”
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ condemns the use of the Official Secrets Act to harass journalists who may collect sensitive information in the course of their professional work.
We call on your government to make public the findings of the investigation into Iftikhar Gilani’s case. If he has been arrested on the basis of his reporting, CPJ demands his prompt and unconditional release.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and await your response.