New Delhi, August 1, 2020 — Jammu and Kashmir police must immediately release Qazi Shibli, editor of news website The Kashmiriyat, from custody, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Shibli was detained at the Shergarh police station in Srinagar yesterday after questioning by the police’s cybercrime division, according to news reports and a member of Shibli’s family who spoke to CPJ.
“Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir must immediately release Qazi Shibli and allow him to return home,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Indian authorities must end their harassment of journalists and allow them to do their jobs without interference.”
In July 2019, Shibli was detained and questioned by police in Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir, after he tweeted about troop movements in the region shortly before the Indian government abrogated the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir state, according to CPJ reporting. He was then arrested under India’s Public Safety Act and held in prison for nine months without trial.
According to a member of Shibli’s family who spoke with CPJ over the phone and asked for their name to be withheld out of fear of retribution, Shibli was summoned for questioning by the police cybercrime cell over his reporting. They told CPJ that Shibli, accompanied by a relative, reached the cell’s office in Srinagar around 12:30 p.m. on July 31, where authorities questioned him until the evening. He was then transferred to the Shergarh police station for overnight detention. According to Shibli’s family, police claimed that they needed to ask Shibli further questions before releasing him. As of 8:45 p.m. today in Srinagar, Shibli was still being held.
CPJ messaged Haseeb Mughal, Senior Superintendent of Police for Srinagar, for comment, but did not receive a reply.
In the past few months, Jammu and Kashmir Police have questioned and opened investigations into several local journalists over their reporting, including Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq, and Fahad Shah, as CPJ has reported.