Srinagar: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Thursday called for immediate and unconditional release of Aasif Sultan, a Kashmiri journalist working for the Kashmir Narrator monthly.
A statement of RSF said that Sultan has been held by the police in violation of all criminal procedure rules for the past ten days.
“The charges are very vague,” his editor, Showkat A. Motta, told RSF yesterday. “Every day we were told there was no serious evidence against him and that he would be released. We waited for five days after he was picked up before making the news of his arrest public. Within an hour of our issuing a statement, he was booked on a charge of harbouring a terrorist.”
Aasif Sultan, 31, was arrested on the night of 27 August when around 50 policemen descended on his home in Srinagar, the Kashmir capital city, searched it and then took him away to a police station. His editor said he has been subjected to a great deal of violence, including being hit in the face, in an attempt to get him to “explain his political ideology,” the statement reads.
“He was asked about his stories,” Motta said. “He was asked why he doesn’t write more positive stories or do developmental journalism.”
“Detaining a journalist without any serious evidence to support the charges against him is unacceptable,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “We call on the Jammu and Kashmir authorities to order Aasif Sultan’s immediate release, to drop all charges and to take measures against the Srinagar police officers responsible for his arbitrary detention. Allowing journalists to express different viewpoints will help to defuse tension in the Kashmir Valley.”
At the start of July, Sultan wrote a story to mark the second anniversary of the death of Buhran Wani, a Kashmiri activist killed by the security forces on 8 July 2016. His death set off renewed protests against the Indian presence in the Kashmir Valley. Those close to Sultan think this story was the real reason for his arrest.
“He has been framed,” Motta said.