New Delhi, 16 July, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) to respect press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir and stop harassing Kashmiri reporter Auqib Javeed and the local daily Greater Kashmir.
The NIA, which is tasked with combatting terrorism, summoned Javeed from Srinagar for questioning at the agency's New Delhi headquarters where they interrogated him for three consecutive days--July 14 through July 16-- and barred his lawyer from attending the questioning, according to Sajjad Haider, Javeed's editor at the Kashmir Observer. Javeed, who is on staff at the Kashmir Observer, told CPJ that he was questioned about an interview with a separatist leader he did as a freelancer for the Sunday magazine insert in Greater Kashmir.
The agency today sent notice to Greater Kashmir, which published the interview in January 2018, directing the editor to provide the unedited version of the interview by tomorrow, according to a copy of the NIA notice seen by CPJ. The notice did not specify what would happen if the newspaper does not comply, but said the NIA was justified in requesting the full interview under the Indian Evidence Act at the Code of Criminal Procedure.
"Questioning Auqib Javeed without a lawyer and trying to force Greater Kashmir to submit raw reporting material is a serious attack on press freedom in the turbulent state of Jammu and Kashmir," said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator in Washington, D.C. "These attempts to intimidate journalists will only force the flow of news and information to grind to a halt."
Speaking to CPJ, Javeed said the NIA officials asked him questions related to his family background, his education, his source of income, and his interview with separatist leader Asiya Andrabi. According to news reports, the NIA filed charges against Andrabi in April and she is currently in custody.
"They asked me to interpret her responses to my questions," he said. "I told them I cannot do that as I'm not her spokesperson." Officials also asked him questions such as how many times he met Andrabi's secretary who had arranged for the interview and where the interview was conducted, Javeed told CPJ.
Javeed also said that the NIA officials told him "not to waste money" on hiring a lawyer as he is not a suspect.
The journalist's lawyer Vinod Trisal, who was hired by Haider, waited at the reception as Javeed was questioned for three hours on the first day, seven hours on the second, and over an hour on the third, the journalist told CPJ.
When CPJ contacted the NIA spokesperson Alok Mittal, asking why the journalist was called in for questioning, he said: "He has been called in connection with investigation of a case." He did not elaborate on the nature of the questioning or Javeed's connection to the case or confirm to which case Javeed was allegedly connected.
In June, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Shujaat Bukhari, an editor and reporter with the Rising Kashmir newspaper, outside his office, CPJ has documented.
In September 2017, NIA detained the Srinagar-based photojournalist Kamran Yousuf and jailed him for four and a half months before charging him with "conspiring to wage war against the Government of India" by carrying out "terrorist and secessionist activities" in Jammu and Kashmir, CPJ reported.