Sajad Gul

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Authorities in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir have held Kashmiri journalist Sajad Gul under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) since January 2022. The act allows for preventive detention for up to two years without trial. He was being held at Bareilly District Jail as of late 2023. 

On January 5, 2022, authorities in Jammu and Kashmir detained Gul, a trainee reporter with the privately owned news website The Kashmir Walla, from his home in the northern Bandipora district of Kashmir, in relation to a video he posted on Twitter, news reports said. The video, which was removed, shows women protesting the killing of a local militant commander, The Kashmir Walla reported.

CPJ was not able to confirm who arrested Gul. His family asserted that the journalist was arrested by the army. However, in a January 2022 WhatsApp message, Emron Musavi, an Indian army spokesperson, told CPJ that Gul was arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police, not the army.

In a statement, Jammu and Kashmir police said Gul was arrested for allegedly provoking people to “resort to violence and disturb public peace” by posting an “objectionable” video on social media and accused him of spreading disinformation “under the garb of a journalist.”

Police opened an investigation, accusing Gul of violating three sections of the Indian penal code, including being party to criminal conspiracy, making assertions prejudicial to national integration, and making statements with intent to cause, or likely to cause, public fear or alarm, news reports said. 

On January 15, 2022, a local court ordered police to release Gul with a bond of 30,000 rupees (US$370) if he was not involved in any other crime, news reports said. Before he could be released, however, police rearrested him on January 16 under the PSA, those reports said.

The government’s PSA dossier, which CPJ reviewed, stated that the journalist’s rearrest was necessary because “there is every apprehension that (Gul) may get bailed out,” which the American Bar Association said violated the principles of an independent judiciary and rule of law.

In June 2022, authorities moved Gul from Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal Jail to the Bareilly District Jail in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, about 690 miles from his hometown of Bandipora, Gul’s brother Zahoor Ahmad told CPJ by phone.

Gul’s petition to quash the PSA order was granted by a division bench of the Jammu and Kashmir court in November 2023, however he remained in prison as of late 2023 as he awaits bail in another case in the Baramulla district, according to news reports and Yashraj Sharma, The Kashmir Walla interim editor who spoke to CPJ by phone in November 2023.

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

Two other Kashmiri journalists—Aasif Sultan and Majid Hyderi—remained detained under the PSA as of late 2023.

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