Kashmir Walla, Fahad Shah
The Kashmir Walla newsroom after the raid.

Srinagar: The State Investigation Agency (SIA) sleuths, joined by the Kashmir police teams, today raided The Kashmir Walla office and its editor-in-chief Fahad Shah’s residence in Srinagar simultaneously.

The raid at Shah’s residence, where his family lives, started at 7:17 AM and state officials searched the entire house. While at the office, the raid started nearly at 8:20 AM. The search and paperwork formalities lasted for more than three hours at both places.

The raid was conducted under a search warrant, issued by Additional Sessions Judge, Jammu, dated 13 April 2022. The search warrant, given to The Kashmir Walla and Shah’s family, is under FIR number 01/2022 under the Indian Penal Code’s sections 120B, 121, 124, 153-B and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’s sections 13 and 18, registered at JIC, SIA, Jammu. The Kashmir Walla and Shah’s family are not aware of any other details of this case.

Shah, the founder of The Kashmir Walla, is currently imprisoned at the Kupwara Jail under the stringent Public Safety Act since 16 March.

In the raid at The Kashmir Walla’s office, the officials seized the laptops of two reporters, a Mac from the multimedia department, six hard drives that had backups, and five CDs. They also checked reporting dairies and phones of two reporters, who reached the office during the raid. The Kashmir Walla co-operated with the officials during the raid and facilitated the formalities.

In the raid at Shah’s residence, a laptop of another Kashmir Walla staffer, who was also there during the searches, a tablet device, and a voice recorder were seized.

Since February 2022, Shah was arrested four times – all against the work of Kashmir Walla – within 40 days, subsequently after bails by the hon’ble courts. His arrest-bail-arrest-bail-arrest saga followed by the raid has taken a heavy toll on the well-being of Shah’s family and Kashmir Walla staffers. It has derailed our journalistic work, which we have continued despite the enormously challenging situation.

Ironically, the latest Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two journalists for upholding freedom of the press, and thence, democracy and to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights. “Without freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament, and a better world order to succeed in our time,” noted The Norwegian Nobel Committee in their citation.

We condemn the seizure of reporters’ gadgets and other equipment at the office and at Shah’s residence. We yet again call upon the Manoj Sinha-led administration to withdraw the charges against Shah and the work of Kashmir Walla.

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We have always come to you for help: The Kashmir Walla is battling at multiple fronts — and if you don’t act now, it would be too late. 2020 was a year like no other and we walked into it already battered. The freedom of the press in Kashmir was touching new lows as the entire population was gradually coming out of one of the longest communication blackouts in the world.

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