Srinagar: Terming the charges levelled against journalist Asif Sultan as baseless, the Kashmir Journalist Association (KJA) on Tuesday said that the police filed an FIR against Asif only after a police officer had an argument with the Editor of Kashmir Narrator, the magazine for which Asif works.
The Kashmir Working Journalist Association (KWJA) made the same allegation. In a statement it said, “From the information gathered by KWJA, it has surfaced that the formal arrest and charges were made after an argument over his illegal detention between a police official and editor of the news magazine, Showkat A Motta, who was accompanied by a known civil society activist, Sushobha Barve.”
“KWJA has learned that SP South Srinagar, GV Chakraborty, misbehaved with both Barve and Showkat after being questioned about the illegal detention and the police demand of reporting sources to the police,” it said.
“The sequence of events suggests that the malafide charges against Asif were made in vendetta, to satiate the bruised ego of the police official. It is unfortunate that an innocent reporter is being victimised in this process. His career and freedom are at stake,” the KWJA said.
“KWJA hopes that corrective measures would be taken at an earliest by withdrawing the case unconditionally, and stern action against SP South Srinagar Sandeep Chakraborty,” it said.
The KJA demanded the intervention of senior police officers and the Governor of J&K in the matter. “We also appeal to the Press Council of India (PCI), human rights bodies, and national and international media and rights watchdogs to intervene in the matter,” the KJA said.
“If Asif is not released, KJA will be forced to initiate legal battle against the erring police officials and come on roads to protest against the unconstitutional action,” it said.
The KJA said that the arrest of a journalist and pressurising him in police custody to reveal his sources is against the democratic and constitutional values that govern the press. “This amounts to sheer harassment which is highly condemnable,” it said.
The KWJA condemned the “framing of journalist Asif Sultan on concocted charges after five days of illegal detention at Police Station Batamloo in Srinagar.”
“The illegal detention, subsequent arrest, and the framing is another instance of the police harassment against journalists in Kashmir who work under challenging conditions,” the KWJA said in a statement.
“The charges levelled against Asif are not only baseless but also betray a vendetta against local journalists,” it said.
The Kashmir Video Journalist Association (KVJA) held a meeting on Tuesday and expressed concern over the continued detention of Asif Sultan.
A statement issued by KVJA said that the association unanimously agreed upon the fact that police should come out with the charge sheet, proof, and facts about the case.
“KVJA fully supports KNTJA, KWJA, KJA and KEG in their stand and demands release of Asif Sultan,” the statement added.
On Saturday, police announced that Asif had been officially arrested in connection with an FIR and was lodged in police station Batamaloo. They accused him of involvement in “harbouring terrorists” but they didn’t make the charges against him public. The police also said that they found “incriminating material” in his laptop.