New Delhi, April 22, 2020 — Authorities in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir should stop harassing journalists with police investigations, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday evening, the Cyber Police Station in Srinagar issued a press release, which CPJ reviewed, stating that it had opened an investigation into journalist Gowhar Geelani over his posts on social media.
Geelani, who now works as a freelance columnist, is a former correspondent for German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle; he told CPJ in a phone interview that he has not received a copy of any complaint against him, and heard about the police investigation through media reports.
The statement claims that Geelani was “indulging in unlawful activities” that were “prejudicial to the national integrity, sovereignty and security of India,” but does not cite any specific social media posts prompting the investigation. Police also claimed that Geelani’s posts were “glorifying terrorism,” according to news reports. Geelani frequently posts political commentary on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, each of which have about 20,000 followers.
Since April 19, police in Jammu and Kashmir have also opened investigations into the work of freelance photojournalist Masrat Zahra and The Hindu reporter Peerzada Ashiq, as CPJ has documented.
“Journalists are not terrorists, and police in Jammu and Kashmir must stop treating them as such,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia correspondent, in New York. “Authorities should immediately drop their investigations into Gowhar Geelani, Masrat Zahra, and Peerzada Ashiq, and allow them all to report freely and without harassment.”
The police press release does not accuse Geelani of violating any specific laws. When CPJ messaged Cyber Police Superintendent Tahir Ashraf for comment, he referred CPJ to Jammu and Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar, who did not respond to a text message seeking comment.
In September 2019, the Indian government stopped Geelani from traveling to Germany for a journalist training program, as CPJ documented at the time.
In February 2020, Jammu and Kashmir police summoned three journalists for questioning on their social media activities.