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Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj put under illegal detention by the Indian state

On 22nd March, a freelance journalist, Irfan Mehraj, in Indian-occupied Kashmir was arrested by the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with an ongoing probe into a fictitious “NGO terror funding case”.

Mehraj, who worked as a freelancer and an online editor with the, was arrested from his hometown Srinagar, the capital city of the region, on Monday evening.

Incarcerated Kashmir human rights activist Khurram Parvez is also an accused in the same case and has been in jail since 2021. Mehraj is not the first journalist to be jailed by the Indian state, as other journalists like Fahad Shah, Asif Sultan, and Sajad Gul have been under arbitrary and illegal detention for prolonged periods.

The statement by the NIA said that Mehraj was a close associate of Parvez and was working with his organization, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS), where he was working as a researcher.

Mehraj’s arrest was condemned by many in Kashmir, including journalists, who termed his arrest a measure to silence the press in Kashmir. The Journalist Federation of Kashmir, a media advocacy group, condemned the arrest.

Referring to Mehraj as a hard working journalist in the region, it said: “His arrest seems to be another tactic of intimidating journalists in Kashmir who have always worked under perilous conditions, holding up values of press freedom in the face of dangers to life and liberty.”

It further said that for a vibrant press to flourish, authorities have to move beyond hollow claims of respect for press freedom and work towards a conducive environment where a journalist can report the facts on ground and express opinion on social media without fear and the threat of arrest.

Press Club of India also condemned the detention, stating that “We vehemently oppose the imposing of UAPA on mediapersons. The misuse of this draconian law by NIA in randomly arresting Irfan Mehraj, a journalist from Kashmir ominously points towards a violation of freedom of speech and expression. We demand his immediate release.”[7]


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