The Press Council of India (PCI) has taken cognizance of the arrest of The Kashmir Walla journalist Sajad Gul by the Jammu and Kashmir police, under the criminal conspiracy and other charges.
Gul has been in custody since 5 January and two days later his family was informed that a formal case was filed against him, in which he has been arrested.
In a letter to PCI, Jammu and Kashmir Journalists Association (JAKJA) on Monday sought immediate intervention in the arrest of Gul.
“We want to bring your attention to the arrest of Kashmiri journalist Sajad Gul by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on January 05. Sajad Gul is a trainee reporter with The Kashmir Walla and is simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at the Central University of Kashmir and has been booked under criminal conspiracy and other charges,” the letter read.
Speaking to The Kashmir Walla, Prakash Dubey, the PCI committee member, said that they have received the letter from the Jammu and Kashmir Journalists Association (JAKJA) and have taken the cognizance of the matter.
“We [PCI] are going to discuss the matter (Gul’s arrest). We stand in solidarity with all the Kashmiri journalists, and are thinking what can be done,” Dubey said. “We are going to pursue the complaint.”
On 5 January, police arrested Gul days after he posted a video of family members and relatives raising anti-India slogans after the killing of their kin, a militant, in a gunfight in Srinagar.
Gul had posted a video of the protest against the killing of Salim Parray, a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander. Parray was killed on 3 January in a gunfight in Harwan, Srinagar. After the killing, minor protests and sloganeering happened in Hajin, in north Kashmir.
According to the family, on 5 January, Gul received a call from an army officer asking him to come out from his house.
The family said that the next day around 2 pm, the SHO (Station House officer) Hajin informed them that Gul is in police custody.
The Kashmir Walla’s legal team has filed a bail plea for Gul in the concerned court. This is not the first time Gul has been booked by the police.
On 9 February last year, Gul was charged with “rioting, trespassing, and assault” for an article he wrote for The Kashmir Walla.
The article was about the villagers of Bandipora who alleged that they were being “harassed and threatened” by Tehsildar Hajin Ghulam Mohammad Bhat over the alleged demolition drive in the area.
Later on the complaint by the Tehsildar at the Hajin Bandipora police station, Gul was booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
In October, Gul was again summoned by the Hajin police station for questioning after he posted a news report and a video on social media-Twitter.
Post 5 August 2019, after the Government of India (GoI) directly took control of Jammu and Kashmir by revoking its special status, as many as 50 journalists have been arrested, raided, barred from travelling while formal cases were registered against them.
After taking suo-motu cognisance of the communication of former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti about the intimidation and harassment of journalists, the three member fact finding committee of PCI arrived in Kashmir.
The committee consisted of – Prakash Dubey, Convener and Group editor, Dainik Bhaskar; Gurbir Singh, Journalist, the New Indian Express and Dr. Suman Gupta, Editor, Jan Morcha – met several journalist delegations to get a firsthand account about the allegations of harassment against the journalists into the hands of the authorities.
Dubey said that the PCI is yet to finalise the report owing to the government’s engagement to tackle the rising number of Covid-19 cases.
“During our visit to Kashmir we met many journalists and have taken their feedback. The journalists have raised important concerns which require the government’s response,” Dubey said. “Once, we will have the government’s version, we will finalise the report and submit it to the Government of India (GoI),” Dubey said.
“Moreover, the PCI is, as of now, without a chairman, so it is the vice-president who was supposed to chair the meeting. So, we have not been able to hold an inclusive meeting comprising all the members of the committee,” he said.