UN human rights office expresses concern over harassment of four Kashmiri Journalists
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 15 (APP): The office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has, in a letter to the Indian government, voiced concern over the “criminal proceedings and investigations” initiated against four well-known Kashmiri journalists, and called for putting an end to their alleged harassment.
David Kaye, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion, in the letter made public Wednesday by the Geneva-based OHCHR, condemned the alleged harassment meted out to journalists Naseer Ganai, Gowhar Geelani, Peerzada Ashiq and Masrat Zehra.
Leigh Toomey, Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and Mark Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, are the two other signatories to the letter.
Noting a “pattern of silencing independent reporting on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir through the threat of criminal sanction”, the letter recalled that the “penalization of a journalist solely for being critical of the government or the political social system espoused by the government is incompatible with the State’s obligation under international human rights law.”
The UN Special Rapporteurs wrote their letter on May 12 this year. Under a UN protocol, the letter is made public only when the concerned country fails to respond within 60 days.
The letter enumerates the chronological sequence of all four cases in detail and reminds the Indian government that journalism was a necessary service for any society, and that “uncensored and unhindered” press and other media constitutes one of the cornerstones of a democratic society.
“We also express concern at the apparent disregard for the prohibition of unlawful and arbitrary interference in the private life of individuals, and the journalistic privilege.,” the letter said.
It refers to the allegation that journalist Naseer Ganai’s computer and mobile phone were searched without a warrant, and that Peerzada Ashiq was specifically asked to reveal the sources of a published news item. It also points out that neither Gowhar Geelani nor Masrat Zehra were informed of the charges against them.
The UN Special Rapporteurs also want the Indian government to “ensure the right to effective remedies, including the investigation violations to the rights of the journalists mentioned in the letter.”