While calling for his “immediate release”, Kashmir Journalist Association (KJA) on Tuesday expressed outrage over the arrest of journalist Aasif Sultan.The association has termed the charges framed against him “unconstitutional and intimidating for press freedom.”The journalists’ body said 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, said a statement, issued here today. “This amounts to sheer harassment which is highly condemnable.”“This illegal detention has put the life and career of Aasif in danger. So, KJA is demanding intervention from top officials of the police and the Governor of J&K. 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,” it said, in the statement.“If Aasif 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.”Meanwhile, Kashmir Working Journalist Association has strongly condemned the framing of journalist Sultan on concocted charges after six days of illegal detention at Police Station Batamloo in Srinagar, and described the framing as a ‘gross abuse of power by police.’“The illegal detention, subsequent arrest, and the framing is another instance of the police harassment against journalists in Kashmir who work under challenging conditions,” a statement issued here by KWJA said.
It said the police statement, while ‘giving hush hush’ details, discloses that allegations of very serious nature, including “complicity in harbouring terrorists” have been levelled against him.“Besides, a police official supervising the whole investigation, has falsely asserted that Asif had been called for questioning for three days and released in the evenings, a claim that cannot corroborated from any sources,” it said.“The charges levelled against Aasif at the last moment are not only baseless, but also betray a vendetta against local journalists,” it added.KWJA 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 learnt that S P South Srinagar, G V Chakraborty misbehaved with both Barve and Showkat after being questioned about the illegal detention and police demand of reporting sources to the police,” 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,” the statement added.Meanwhile, Kashmir Video Journalist Association (KVJA) in a meeting expressed concern over the continued detention of Aasif Sultan assistant editor Kashmir narrator.
A statement issued here by KVJA said 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 there stand and demand release of Asif Sultan,” the statement added.A court in Srinagar has granted the police seven days’ custody of the journalist after he was booked in a militancy case.Kashmir Editors Guild on Monday said that Sultan was formally arrested after detaining him for six days.The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the arrest of Sultan while calling for his “immediate release”.In a statement issued today, the IFJ said Indian police arrested and detained the assistant editor of the ‘Kashmir Narrator’ over alleged militancy crimes and held him for six days without charge.“The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Indian Journalist Union (IJU) in condemning the arrest and detention of Aasif Sultan and demands his immediate release,” the IFJ statement said.The IFJ said Sultan is not the first journalist in Kashmir to be arrested for ‘dubious charges of militancy’ involvement.IFJ General secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “The arrest and charge against Asif Sultan for his reporting is deplorable and unacceptable. We demand his immediate release and urge the Indian to critically address the deteriorating situation for media workers in Kashmir who are increasingly being targeted for doing their job.” (GNS)