Advocacy group calls for ‘immediate’ release of Kashmiri journalist

May 24, 2021 | Communication Blockade

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Sunday demanded the immediate release of Kashmiri journalist Asif Sultan, who has been in prison for the last 1,000 days.

In a Twitter post, the New York-based non-profit group said: “He [Sultan] has been repeatedly denied bail. Asif was arrested after publishing a story on militant Burhan Wani in Aug.2018.”

Sultan had written a detailed profile of Burhan Wani, a top militant leader who was killed in an encounter with the Indian forces in 2016 and has since become a symbol of protests against the government in the disputed territory.

He was arrested on Aug. 27, 2018 and booked under a controversial anti-terror law. He was accused of “harboring known militants” which his family has denied.

“Journalist Aasif Sultan’s trial began in June 2019 and has been moving slowly,” the CPJ said.

There was no immediate response from the Indian government on the statement.

Last year, CPJ along with 400 journalists had written a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding his immediate release.

The group had said: “Interviewing alleged militants or having sources that 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.”

The 34-year-old journalist covered politics and human rights for Kashmir Narrator, a monthly news magazine published from Srinagar, capital of the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mohammad Sultan, the journalist’s father, said his son has been framed falsely in the case.

“My innocent son has spent these 1,000 days in jail for no crime. We as a family want his immediate release now,” Sultan added.

In May this year, the Committee for Protection of Journalists had written a letter to the European Commission and the European Council highlighting the threat to incarcerated journalist’s life due to the viral infection.

The group had demanded the European Commission to urge Indian authorities for Sultan’s release in view of the surging infection and deaths due to the pandemic.

“Journalists in jail are at high risk of contracting the virus and their detentions now pose a threat to their lives,” the group said.

Sultan’s lawyer Abdullah Pandith told Anadolu Agency that there are high chances that Sultan will get a bail soon.

“Hopefully, we can secure his release in coming weeks as we have applied for the bail and there seems promising chances as the case has moved further,” Pandith said.

Author: Nusrat Sidiq
Publication: Anadolu Agency