According to the data gathered by Amnesty International, at least 27 journalists have been arrested and detained by the Indian authorities since 5 August 2019.
Several journalists including Fahad Shah, Aasif Sultan and Sajad Gul have been subjected to ‘revolving door’ arrests. In a continuing pattern, they have been arrested under one law, granted bail by the court, and then re-arrested almost immediately under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) – India’s primary anti-terror law in Jammu & Kashmir, keeping them perpetually detained.
A lawyer who handles such cases in southern Kashmir told Amnesty International, “Since 2016, the increased malicious use of anti-terror laws makes it difficult for people to secure bail. [It] provides more flexibility to the police in keeping the person in pre-trial detention for 180 days even though the… chargesheets filed by the police [reads] nothing less than a fiction book or novel.”
Amnesty International reviewed 1346 cases available on the website of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir. It found that by 1 August 2022, the number of writ petitions have increased by 32%, indicating an increase in unlawful detention in the last three years. Amnesty International also reviewed the data published by National Crime Record Bureau and found that there has been a 12% increase in the use of UAPA in Jammu & Kashmir since 2019. This emerging trend of using the draconian UAPA in addition to the much-abused Public Safety Act (PSA) is also evidenced by an analysis of information on the High Court’s website.
Other intimidation tactics include malicious investigations and raids by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and the Enforcement Directorate.
A senior editor of a prominent daily newspaper told Amnesty International, “When the NIA raids a journalist’s house or the Enforcement Directorate threatens an editor with false cases, it does not only impact that journalist or editor but the entire community. They fear they can be next. It has become impossible for journalists to continue their work independently.”
In 2020, the NIA conducted multiple raids on the residences and offices of well-known human rights defenders like Khurram Parvez, three of his associates and Parveena Ahanger. Raids have also been carried out on the offices of the newspaper Kashmir Times,NGOs Athrout and GK Trust and on the residence of Agence France-Presse’s Kashmir correspondent Parvez Bukhari.
Amnesty International spoke with Khurram Parvez’s wife, Sameena after his subsequent arrest. She recounted, “The NIA officials seized the (personal) phones of everyone (in the joint family) including our domestic help along with office laptops. In total, there were 21 devices… they kept asking about some of the names in his (old) diary and on a bunch of visiting cards. How can that be used to charge Khurram under India’s anti-terror law and accuse him of waging a war against the country?”
Raids without a legal basis constitute a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.