FCC Statement on the Arrest of Journalist Fahad Shah
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is concerned about the arrest of Kashmir journalist Fahad Shah under India’s anti-terrorism law. Shah, who is the founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, was awarded the 25th Human Rights Press Awards in 2021 in explanatory feature writing for his coverage of the Delhi communal violence. He was arrested on Friday for allegedly uploading anti-national content.
Press freedom in the region has deteriorated since Indian prime minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s special status in 2019. Journalists seen as critical of the government are increasingly being called into questioning and the of the Kashmir Press Club has been shut down. The FCC urges authorities to respect the right of journalists to work freely and safely in the region.
Shah’s winning HRPA entry can be found here.
The following is a statement from The Kashmir Walla’s editorial board on Shah’s arrest:
Fahad Shah, the founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, has been remanded to 10 days custody by judicial Magistrate Pulwama Saturday.
He was arrested Friday by the police at the Pulwama Police station after he was called to submit a statement in an on-going investigation launched after The Kashmir Walla published the reports on events at a gunfight in the south Kashmir district on 29 January 2020. Since 31 January when Shah was summoned for questioning, he has co-operated with the police investigation.
Shah, the 33-year-old who founded The Kashmir Walla in 2009, was arrested under FIR 19/2022, with charges of sedition and the anti-terror law. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.
In a press statement, the police identified Shah among “Facebook users” who “are uploading such posts which tantamount to glorifying the terrorist activities and causing dent to the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing ill-will [and] disaffection against the country.”
Speaking with a national news-wire, Kashmir police chief, Vijay Kumar said: “Accused Fahad Shah has been arrested on the basis of one of the three FIRs lodged against him for frequently glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news, & instigating people, for the past 3-4 years.”
Kumar further added that there are currently three cases registered against Shah. He clarified that Shah was arrested under FIR in Pulwama police station. Other two FIRs stand in police stations of Safakadal, in Srinagar, and Imamsahib, in Shopian.
Shah’s arrest comes on the heels of the imprisonment of another Kashmir Walla staffer Sajad Gul. Gul was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) a day after he was granted bail by District Court Bandipora. He is currently imprisoned in Kot Bhalwal jail, in Jammu.
Under Shah’s decade-long leadership, The Kashmir Walla sailed through the devastating floods of 2014, the clampdown of August 2019, after New Delhi revoked the region’s limited-autonomy, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shah’s writing on identity conflict and human rights has featured in reputed international magazines, including Foreign Affairs, TIME, and Foreign Policy. He was awarded the prestigious 25th Human Rights Press Awards 2021 in explanatory feature writing for his coverage of Delhi communal violence in February 2020.
Shah was bed-ridden and was on medication for severe cough and fever since 31 January. The Kashmir Walla has reposed its faith in judiciary and hope that Shah would be taken care of accordingly and supremacy of law will prevail.
The team stands in solidarity with Shah and his family at this time of distress and remains committed to providing reliable and on-ground reporting from Kashmir and appeals to Manoj Sinha-led Jammu and Kashmir administration for the immediate release of Shah and Gul. We hope both of them will join us back in the newsroom soon.