New Delhi, September 8, 2021 – Police in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir should stop raiding the homes of journalists and immediately return any seized electronic devices, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Authorities in Srinagar, the main city in Jammu and Kashmir, today raided the homes of four journalists–Showkat Motta, the editor of Kashmir Narrator magazine, freelance journalists Azhar Qadri and Abbas Shah, and Hilal Mir, who reports for the Turkey-based news outlet TRT World–according to news reports. Police seized documents and electronic devices, including cellphones and laptops, of the journalists and their spouses, and later summoned them to a local police station for questioning, according to the Associated Press.
CPJ was unable to directly contact the journalists because their phones had been confiscated by the police, and was unable to confirm whether the four reported to the police station or whether they are currently in detention.
“The repeated harassment of journalists in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir needs to stop immediately,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Police should halt any interrogations of and investigations into journalists Showkat Motta, Azhar Qaddri, Abbas Shah, and Hilal Mir, and return all electronic devices seized from the journalists’ homes.”
According to the news website Kashmir Observer, the police claimed that the raids were related to an investigation into an anonymous Kashmir Fight blog. The police had initiated an investigation in October 2020 after the blog listed 39 Kashmiri journalists as alleged “Indian agents,” as CPJ documented at that time.
However, two senior reporters who are close associates of some of the journalists and a New Delhi-based security researcher who works on Kashmir, all of whom spoke to CPJ under condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said they doubted the reported police explanation and saw the raids as an attack on the independent media.
Sub-Divisional Police Officer Tanushree, who uses one name and is heading the investigation, did not respond to CPJ’s text message requesting comment.
Aasif Sultan, a journalist with Kashmir Narrator and a colleague of Motta, has been in prison since August 2019 on charges of supporting terror activities after he reported on a slain militant in his magazine, according to CPJ research.