“Immediately release Aasif Sultan”: CPJ, 397 civil society members write to PM Modi

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Nearly 400 journalists, academics, press freedom advocates, and civil society members have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, joined together by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), urging immediate release of journalist Aasif Sultan.

On 27 August 2020, today, Mr. Sultan, who used to work with Kashmir Narrator, a regional magazine, completed two years of “unjustly [detention]” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, for his alleged complicity in “harboring known terrorists”, wrote the CPJ in the letter.

The CPJ called on the government to follow the Supreme Court’s guidance issued on 23 March to release prisoners on parole due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and grant Mr. Sultan immediate and unconditional release.

Referring to a much talked about article, The Rise of Burhan [Wani], reported by Mr. Sultan, the CPJ wrote: “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. Events in Kashmir are of public interest, and covering them is a public service, not a criminal act.”

The letter, which is CCed to Home Minister Amit Shah and Jammu and Kashmir Lt. Gov Manoj Sinha, the CPJ stated that the journalists should not face retaliation for their reporting. The signatories involve acclaimed authors and press freedom advocates from around the world, especially the media fraternity.

“Press freedom is a vital tenet of democracy and a proud part of India’s history,” the CPJ wrote in the letter. “We are asking you to recognize and uphold India’s commitment to press freedom under Article 19 of its constitution.”

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