Nearly 400 writers, activists seek Aasif Sultan’s release

Srinagar: Sending an e-mail to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) along with 397 writers, journalists, academics, press freedom advocates, and civil society members have sought immediate release of journalist Aasif Sultan.

Aasif Sultan, who covers politics and human rights for the Kashmir Narrator magazine, has been imprisoned since August 27, 2018, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, for his alleged complicity in “harbouring” militants. The e-mail claimed that Sultan has been “unjustly” detained.

Asserting that interviewing alleged militants or having sources who are critical of the government is within the scope of a journalist’s job and does not implicate them in any crime, the CPJ added that events in Kashmir are of public interest, and covering them is a public service, not a criminal act.

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CPJ alleged that Sultan’s trial has been moving slowly and he has repeatedly been denied bail.

Maintaining that press freedom is a vital tenet of democracy and a proud part of India’s history, the CPJ said that journalists should not face retaliation for their reporting. Citing Article 19 of its constitution, CPJ asked Indian government to recognize and uphold India’s commitment to press freedom. Kashmir Reader reported.

Pointing out the recent deaths of journalists who contracted COVID-19 in government custody around the world, and the spread of COVID-19 among inmates in jails in Jammu and Kashmir, CPJ said there is threat to Sultan’s well-being.

Urging PM Modi, Home Minister Shah and Lt Guv Sinha to follow the Supreme Court’s guidance issued on March 23 to release prisoners on parole due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CPJ sought immediate and unconditional release of Aasif Sultan.

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