Fahad Shah

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Authorities in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmiri detained journalist Fahad Shah on February 4, 2022. He faces a series of accusations under the penal code, the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows for preventative detention for up to two years without trial.

Jammu and Kashmir police arrested Shah, founder and editor of the privately owned news website The Kashmir Walla, on February 4, at a police station in the southern Kashmiri city of Pulwama, where he had been summoned earlier that day for questioning, according to news reports and a person familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal by authorities.

Police opened an investigation into Shah and accused him of sedition and making statements causing public mischiefcrimes under the Indian penal codeand of unlawful activities under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to a copy of a police report, which CPJ reviewed.

Days before his first arrest, Shah told CPJ in a phone interview that police had questioned him about The Kashmir Walla’s coverage of a gun fight between militants and government forces on January 30, which was published on the outlet’s website and official Facebook page.

On February 26, Shah was granted interim bail in that case until March 12, but authorities rearrested the journalist before he could be released, saying he was being held in connection with a January 2021 criminal case regarding an article in The Kashmir Walla on alleged government pressure on a Kashmir school to celebrate Indian Republic Day, according to news reports and coverage by his outlet.

On March 5, 2022, Shah was granted bail in that case, but police again rearrested him before he could be released, then saying he was being held in connection with a July 2020 criminal case regarding The Kashmir Walla’s reporting on alleged rights violations by armed government forces, the website said.

On March 14, 2022, one day before Shah’s bail hearing in that case, police arrested the journalist for a fourth time, then under the Public Safety Act, and transferred him two days later to Kashmir’s Kupwara jail, about 80 miles from his family, The Wire and The Kashmir Walla said.

The government’s Public Safety Act dossier, which CPJ reviewed, alleges that Shah was “working against the ethics of journalism” and “continuously propagating stories against the interest and security of the nation.”

On April 17, police and State Investigation Agency officials raided Shah’s home and The Kashmir Walla’s office, the outlet reported.

On May 20, the State Investigation Agency took over Shah’s custody in relation to another criminal investigation in which an unnamed editor of The Kashmir Walla has been accused of violating two sections of the anti-terror act and of criminal conspiracy under the penal code. One day prior, Shah was moved to Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal Jail, where he remained detained as of late 2022, Kashmir Walla interim editor Yashraj Sharma told CPJ by phone.

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

Rohit Kansal, Jammu and Kashmir government spokesperson, and Dilbag Singh, director general of the Jammu and Kashmir police, did not respond to CPJ’s requests for comment sent via messaging app.