New Delhi: The NHRC Monday sent a notice to Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary and the state’s police chief in connection with the killing of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari, and said the incident was causing “serious threat” to free speech and freedom of press in the state.
The National Human Rights Commission said it had taken suo motu cognisance of an appeal via press by SAMDEN, a network of editors and media practitioners, which had urged the NHRC and the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission to push for a swift probe into the case.
Bukhari, 53, and his two PSOs were shot dead by gunmen outside the newspaper’s office in the heart of Srinagar on June 14. He was shot dead soon after he boarded his car from his office in the Press Enclave at Lal Chowk.
“Looking into the gravity of the matter, the commission has issued a notice to the chief secretary and the director general of police of Jammu and Kashmir, calling for a detailed report in the matter,” the NHRC said in a statement.
Jammu and Kashmir is currently under Governor’s rule since June 20.
“The state government is also expected to provide details of the attacks made on mediapersons during the last two years, along with number of persons who have died or been injured, and status of relief and rehabilitation provided to victims and their families,” the rights panel said.
The commission said it would also like to know as to what “special measures have been taken by the state government to stop such incidents” and added that the response was expected within four weeks.
The NHRC had observed that in view of special provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, in connection with Jammu and Kashmir, “it generally does not intervene into the matters relatable to entries enumerated in the List II (State List) mentioned under Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India”.
In such cases, it was for the State Human Rights Commission to take cognisance of the complaints regarding alleged violation of human rights in the state”.
However, it further observed that “it is learnt that the State Human Rights Commission is closed for summer vacations till June 30, and till date, cognisance of this case has not been taken by them”.
The deceased journalist had been under police protection since 2000.
He was reportedly facing threats, being a rare voice of moderation and an advocate for peace and justice. Many other NGOs and human rights defenders had also raised their voice against the threats, attacks and murders carried out against mediapersons, the NHRC said.
“The way Shujaat Bukhari had been killed by the miscreants indicates that mediapersons, even those who have been provided police protection by the state government, are not safe in the Valley. This is a case of violation of right to life of the victim, and the incident is causing serious threat to free speech and freedom of press in the state,” the Commission said.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on Friday had said that it had sent a letter to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson Justice (Retired) HL Dattu, urging the NHRC to push for swift investigation into the case.
Copies of the letter were also sent to the SHRC, as well as to David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the CHRI had said in a statement.
South Asia Media Defenders Network (SAMDEN) is an informal association of independent editors and media practitioners, anchored in CHRI.
Besides, a complaint from the Front Line Defenders, an NGO was received which was registered by the commission. The formal letter from the CHRI is yet to be received by the commission, it said.