Terrorism charges still used to persecute journalists in Jammu and Kashmir

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Majid “Jimmy” Hyderi, a freelance journalist who has been held arbitrarily for more than three weeks in northern India’s Jammu and Kashmir region under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) following his initial arrest for alleged Penal Code violations.

Majid Hyderi’s detention has brought the number of journalists currently held in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir to six.

After his arrest by local police in the city of Srinagar on 15 September on the basis of a “First Information Report” citing violations of sections 120-B, 177, 386 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, Hyderi was released on bail the next day but was immediately rearrested under the controversial PSA, which is supposed to address direct threats to the security of the state.


“After Kashmir Walla editor Fahad Shah’s imprisonment, and the closure of his news website, this latest arrest marks the definitive death of independent journalism in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no justification for the police being able to detain a journalist in the same way as a terrorist. The local authorities have once again shown that they tolerate no criticism, not even coming from the most moderate critics. We call on Indian home minister Amit Shah to intervene immediately to order the unconditional release of Majid Hyderi and the other imprisoned journalists.

South Asia desk
Reporters Without Borders

The former editor of the Srinagar-based regional daily Greater Kashmir, a contributor to DailyO, an Indian news site aimed at young people, and a frequent political commentator on TV news channels, Hyderi is known for his moderate political views and for criticising attacks against the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, both the local police and the army. But he has also been very critical of corruption within the Kashmiri bureaucracy and New Delhi’s failure to address this problem.

Overcrowded prison

His arrest on 15 September on clearly trumped-up charges of “criminal conspiracy, intimidation, extortion, giving false information [and] defamation” – charges on which he could be jailed for up to 14 years – showed that the authorities want to silence even slightly critical journalists.

The case took an even more preposterous turn when, on being released on bail on 16 September, he was immediately re-arrested under the Public Safety Act, a 1978 law limited to Jammu and Kashmir region that is highly controversial because it allows the authorities to detain anyone “preventively” – without a trial or warrant – for up to two years. He is currently held in Kot Bhalwal, an overcrowded prison in Jammu, a Hindu-majority city 300 km south of Srinagar. 

Death of independent journalism in Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir has become a cemetery for independent journalism, especially since 2019, when India rescinded the partial autonomy it enjoyed under article 370 of the constitution and stripped it of its status as a state, turning it into a “Union Territory.” Since then, many critics or potential critics of the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government have been detained under "prevention laws" that are being misused to suppress independent journalism.

The latest victims include The Kashmir Walla, an independent news site that was blocked by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 19 August. Several of its journalists have been subjected to judicial harassment for years under the PSA and other laws. They include its former editor, Fahad Shah, who was held from March 2022 to April 2023 under the PSA for "glorifying terrorism." The Jammu and Kashmir high court quashed his detention order on the grounds that the reasons given were "vague and unfounded” but he continues to be held under a different law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). 

The UAPA was used in March to arrest Irfan Mehraj, the editor of Wande Magazine, an online publication specialising in long-form journalism, and a freelancer for many national and international media. He is being held on a total of nine charges that include “sedition” and “funding terror activities.”

According to RSF’s Press Freedom Barometer, nine journalists are currently detained arbitrarily in India. Three are based in other parts of the country. They are India Writers news site editor Nilesh Sharma, NewsClick news site columnist Gautam Navlakha, and freelancer Rupesh Kumar Singh. All of the other six are Kashmiris. As well as Shah, Mehraj and now Hyderi, they are Rupesh Kumar Singh, who is accused of “harbouring terrorists,” and two other Kashmir Walla journalists – Abdul Aala Fazili and Sajad Gul.

161/ 180
Score : 36.62
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