Washington, D.C., July 6, 2021– Police in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir should cease harassing journalist Siddharth Varadarajan and The Wire, and allow journalists to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On July 3, the police headquarters of the Kashmir zone issued a legal notice to Varadarajan, editor-in-chief of the independent news website The Wire, indicating that police were considering legal action against the outlet for allegedly “propagating concocted stories” and “rumor mongering,” and requesting Varadarajan’s response to those allegations within one week, according to a copy of the order, which CPJ reviewed, and Varadarajan, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
The police document cites a June 7 article regarding the killing of a Kashmiri resident in police custody, and a June 28 article on the killing of a police officer in the region’s Pulwama district. Varadarajan told CPJ that The Wire stood by both stories.
“Jammu and Kashmir authorities’ notice threatening legal action against journalist Siddarth Varadarajan only adds to the ongoing targeted harassment of The Wire in obvious retaliation for its critical reporting,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Authorities should immediately withdraw the notice and allow The Wire and all media outlets to report freely on issues of public interest.”
Rohit Kansal, a Jammu and Kashmir government spokesperson, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via messaging app. CPJ also emailed Kashmir Police Inspector-General Vijay Kumar for comment, but did not receive any reply.
Last month, police in the state of Uttar Pradesh opened a criminal investigation into The Wire and three other journalists for allegedly sharing an unverified video that could cause social unrest, as CPJ documented at the time.
Previously, in April 2020, Uttar Pradesh police filed a criminal complaint against Varadarajan for allegedly spreading discord, enmity, and rumors during the COVID-19 lockdown.