Aasif Sultan

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Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan has been detained since August 2018, first under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and later under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows for preventive detention for up to two years without trial. As of late 2023, he was being held in the Central Jail in Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh

In July 2018, Sultan, an assistant editor and reporter with the privately owned monthly magazine Kashmir Narrator, wrote a cover story about slain Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani, whose killing by Indian security forces sparked a wave of anti-government demonstrations in Kashmir in July 2016. Sultan’s story included interviews with non-combatant members of Wani’s militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, and according to his editor, Showkat Motta, police pressured Sultan to disclose his sources for the story.

In a statement filed on October 3, 2018, before a judge in Srinagar, the state accused Sultan of staying in contact with a militant group and promoting it on social media. Sultan’s editor and family disputed this claim and said that he was being targeted for his work as a journalist.

According to a court judgment on November 13, 2018, authorities also accused Sultan of aiding and being a member of Hizbul Mujahideen.

On August 28, 2020, in response to CPJ’s advertisement in The Washington Post demanding Sultan’s release, the Jammu and Kashmir police posted that the journalist was not being held for his work but for “hatching #criminal conspiracy, harbouring & supporting #terrorists who martyred a Police constable.”

In February 2022, CPJ joined 57 press freedom organizations, human rights groups, and publications to call for the immediate release of Sultan and other detained Kashmiri journalists.

On April 5, 2022, a special court granted Sultan bail in the anti-terror case, claiming that the state failed to provide evidence linking him to any militant organization, according to multiple news reports and Sultan’s lawyer, Adil Pandit, who spoke with CPJ by phone.

Authorities held Sultan, who was in the process of posting bail, at a police station in Batamaloo, Srinagar, for five days before rearresting him under the PSA and transferring him to Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal Jail, according to those sources. In May 2022, authorities moved Sultan to Ambedkar Nagar Central Jail in Agra, where he remained detained as of late 2023, news reports and his brother Omer Sultan said.

The government’s PSA dossier, reviewed by CPJ, accused Sultan of working for militant organizations and “advocating the idea of separatism through articles,” specifically citing Sultan’s cover story.

As of late 2023, Sultan’s plea to quash the PSA order was pending at the Srinagar wing of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Omer Sultan told CPJ. 

Two other Kashmiri journalists on CPJ’s 2023 prison census—Sajad Gul and Majid Hyderi—are detained under the PSA.

Jammu and Kashmir Police did not respond to CPJ’s email sent in late 2023 requesting comment.