India: The Kashmir Walla editor arrested under sedition law

Fahad Shah, founder and editor of local news portal The Kashmir Walla, has been detained under India’s sedition and anti-terror laws for allegedly sharing ‘anti-national content’ on social media. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Indian affiliate, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU), urge authorities to drop all charges against Shah and ensure his immediate release.

The Kashmir Walla editor, Fahad Shah, was detained on February 4. Credit: Twitter

On February 4, Shah was summoned by Pulwama district police as part of an investigation into a series of news reports The Kashmir Walla published about a police raid in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on January 29, 2020. Shah also faced police inquiry into a report of a gunfight in Naira village published to The Kashmir Walla’s Facebook page on January 30.

Following his arrest, a local court sent Shah into police custody for ten days from February 5.

Pulwama district police filed a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which prohibits advocating, abetting, advising or inciting unlawful activity.

Shah has also been charged Sections under 124-A and 505 of the Indian Penal Code, which forbid sedition and public mischief respectively. If convicted, Shah could face life imprisonment under Section 124-A, three years under Section 505 or seven years under Section 13 of the UAPA.

According to a statement by Kashmir Zone Police on Twitter, Shah is wanted in three cases for “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public for creating L&O [law and order] situations.” Shah has previously been summoned by Srinagar Cyber Police Station on May 20, 2021.

Shah’s detainment is the latest in a series of intimidatory acts against Kashmiri Journalists.  On January 5, Sajad Gul, a trainee journalist affiliated with The Kashmir Walla, was arrested for allegations of disseminating false information via social media to promote anti-government sentiment.

IJU president, Geetartha Pathak, said: “The IJU is enraged at the arrest of Fahad Shah for his reporting on a gun battle. We demand the immediate release of Mr Shah.”

The IFJ said: “The mounting detainment of journalists like Fahad Shah is part of the Jammu and Kashmir government’s strategy to terrorise independent media in a bid to silence critical voices. The IFJ urges the authorities to drop all charges and release Shah immediately and ensure that no journalist is ever targeted for their free and independent reporting.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram