Nearly 400 civil society members demand Asif Sultan’s release
Srinagar: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) along with 397 writers, journalists, academics, press freedom advocates, and civil society members have written to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to immediately release journalist Aasif Sultan, who has been imprisoned for the last two years.
In an e-mail sent to the trio, the CPJ along with civol society members said that Sultan, who covers politics and human rights for the Kashmir Narrator magazine, has been “unjustly” detained since August 27, 2018, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, for his alleged complicity in “harbouring” militants.
The CPJ said that “interviewing alleged militants or having sources who are critical of the government is within the scope of a journalist’s job and does not implicate them in any crime”.
“Events in Kashmir are of public interest, and covering them is a public service, not a criminal act, “ it added.
As per the CPJ, Sultan’s trial, which began in June 2019, has been moving slowly and he has repeatedly been denied bail.
It said that police have reportedly interrogated him about his writing and asked him to reveal his sources.
The CPJ said that journalists should not face retaliation for their reporting and press freedom is a vital tenet of democracy and a proud part of India’s history.
“We are asking you to recognize and uphold India’s commitment to press freedom under Article 19 of its constitution, “ it said.
The CPJ further said that given the recent deaths of journalists who contracted COVID-19 in government custody around the world, and the spread of COVID-19 among inmates in jails in Jammu and Kashmir, “the threat to Sultan’s well-being is significant”.
The CPJ urged PM Modi, Home Minister Shah and Lt Guv Sinha to follow the Supreme Court’s guidance issued on March 23 to release prisoners on parole due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and grant Aasif Sultan immediate and unconditional release.