Kashmiri journalist Majid Hyderi has been detained since September 2023 under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), a draconian law that allows for up to two years of detention without trial. He was being held at Jammu’s Central Jail Kot Bhalwal as of late 2023.
Hyderi is a freelance journalist and television commentator who has written extensively for news websites on political and social issues, and most recently for the digital news platform News Tell, where his mother, Shafqat Jahan, is the editor and publisher. In October 2021, Hyderi was summoned for questioning about his social media activities.
ARREST AND DETENTION
Around 10 p.m. on September 15, 2023, police detained Hyderi from his residence in the Peerbagh area of Srinagar based on a court order, according to multiple news reports and Jahan, who spoke with CPJ by phone. He was arrested under four sections of the penal code relating to criminal conspiracy, extortion, spreading false information, and defamation, according to a copy of the police first information report reviewed by CPJ.
Makhdoomi was previously granted a judicial injunction to prohibit Hyderi and News Tell’s reporting on him. That injunction was lifted on June 17, 2023, after the court observed that Hyderi’s article was based on research on pending court cases against Makhdoomi that were a “matter of record and is the public document,” according to Jahan and News Tell.
Despite being granted bail on September 17, 2023, Hyderi was swiftly rearrested the same day under the PSA.
The PSA order, which CPJ reviewed, is based on a dossier presented by police that accuses Hyderi of using “the cover of journalism” for “provoking, instigating and extorting masses against the government of India” and working “against the ethics of journalism and misusing the profession of journalism by spreading and circulating fake information/ news/ false statements thus endangering the security of the state.” The dossier also accuses him of “advocating the idea of separatism and secessionist ideology through electronic means, tweets and social media posts.”
Jahan has rejected all the anti-state accusations against her son and maintained that his work is purely journalistic in nature. “I have dedicated my entire life to this country and raised my children to be law-abiding citizens who believe in the constitution of India. Majid is being targeted for raising uncomfortable questions about the conducts of a few powerful people. He has also reported on facts, never on hearsay. Show me one piece of his work that is anti-India,” she told CPJ.
Hyderi was subsequently moved to Jammu’s Central Jail Kot Bhalwal, where he remained as of late 2023.
Jahan told CPJ that the detention put Hyderi’s health at serious risk given his preexisting medical conditions, including a spinal injury. Hyderi’s lawyers have challenged his detention in Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Jammu and Kashmir Police did not respond to CPJ’s email sent in late 2023 requesting comment.