PEN Delhi and PEN South India join various journalists’ associations in India and abroad in expressing deep concern over the detention and arrest of journalist Aasif Sultan, the Assistant Editor of Kashmir Narrator in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Based on news reports and conversations with Kashmir Narrator Editor Showkat Motta and Aasif’s father Mohammad Sultan, PEN Delhi and South India have learnt that Aasif’s house was raided, his laptop, cell phone and other documents were seized, and that he was detained from the night of the 27th of August. He was formally presented to the Court only five days later, on the 1st of September. This sequence of events occurred soon after Aasif had published an article on the Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani.

Motta claims further that Aasif was questioned as to who his sources were and why he did particular stories. Questions regarding his political ideology were put to him as well. The police have said, “In journalism, he would instigate people in Jammu and Kashmir, especially Kashmir Valley, by glorifying terrorists associated with Hizbul Mujahideen… In his magazine, ‘Kashmir Narrator’, he would often give coverage to Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists, especially Burhan Wani, to attract youth towards terrorist organisations, especially Hizbul Mujahideen.”

Aasif has also been accused of “being in contact with” and “harbouring” militants, though his father Mohammad Sultan and Editor Motta claim that the police have so far not substantiated these claims with any evidence. One officer associated with the case is reported to have said, “This case is about harbouring a militant but yes, he is writing against uniformed forces, supporting militancy.”

Upon Aasif’s arrest being challenged the Court has issued a notice to the Government and fixed September 13 as the date for the hearing. A year ago, a Kashmiri photo-journalist Kamran Yousuf was arrested and freed on bail only after six months.

 

In light of the above, PEN Delhi and South India condemn the unlawful detention of a journalist on account of what he has written and urge authorities to ensure that Aasif receives the benefits of due process and is released by the authorities if this should follow from the same.

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