On World Press Freedom Day, Tuesday, May 3, the Committee to Protect Journalists joined nine other press freedom and human rights organizations in a statement calling on the government of India, led by the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, to address the rapidly deteriorating state of press freedom throughout the country and in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
The statement calls on authorities to release all journalists detained for their work, including Fahad Shah, Sajad Gul, and Aasif Sultan, who were granted bail but then re-arrested this year under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a preventative detention law. The groups also expressed concern about the use of spurious terrorism and sedition charges against members of the press including journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been detained since October 2020.
The statement notes that journalists belonging to minority communities are particularly vulnerable to harassment and retaliation. In January, a demeaning fake auction app was taken offline after it listed at least 20 female Muslim journalists for “sale,” all of whom covered the BJP government’s policies affecting religious minorities.
The statement also expresses concern about the use of Pegasus spyware to monitor journalists’ digital communications. The Pegasus Project has identified more than 40 Indian journalists who appeared on a leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by the spyware, which is produced by the Israeli company NSO Group. In October 2021, the Supreme Court of India ordered a “thorough inquiry” on the government’s alleged use of Pegasus against journalists and others.
Read the statement here.