UN expresses concern over police action against Kashmiri journalists

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Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights today made public the “communication to India on multiple alleged acts of intimidation of journalists.” The communication was in context to the harrassment of 2 Kashmir based journalists Qazi Shibli and Aakash Hassan and an Indian province Bihar’s journalist Chandrabhushan Tiwari.

“On 1 October 2021, I wrote a joint communication to the Government of India about unnecessary and excessive use of force employed by police on public roads against journalists and human rights defenders Chandrabhushan Tiwari and Aakash Hassan, and raids by police of the homes of a journalist Qazi Shibli and his family,” Ms. Lawlor said in the communication.

The said communication mentions the case of The Kashmiriyat editor, Qazi Shibli, who is “a journalist and editor of the news wesbite The Kashmiriyat in Anantnag city.”

Shibli was also the “subject of a previous communication, IND 9/2021, sent on 3 June 2021 to your government. To this date, no response has been received to the communication.”

Summarising the events that took place on 6 August 2021 at Shibli’s house, the communication states that “At approximately 1:00 am, police searched the home of Qazi Shibli, while he was not there, for approximately two hours in Anantnag City in central Jammu Kashmir.”

The police forcibly entered Shibli’s home by breaking the lock and reportedly did not provide a warrant or justification for the search. Reportedly, the police also broke several items such as glasses, window panes, and a security camera outside Shibli’s home. The police also allegedly confiscated electronics belonging to members of Shibli’s family, who were present during the search, and a CCTV intercom monitor in the home, it said.

And that “at approximately 1:30 am on 6 August 2021, the police also searched the homes of Mr. Shibli’s cousin and grandmother for 20 and 30 minutes respectively.”

Hours before these searches, The Kashmiriyat had reposted an article from 2017 on social media, regarding a Kashmiri militant, who had allegedly been killed by Indian forces, it mentions.

Besides that, Lawlor also expressed concern regarding journalist and human rights defender, Chandrabhushan Tiwari and Aakash Hassan, who have been “beaten by police officers allegedly merely for carrying out their journalistic profession, or being identified as members of the press.”

“In the communicaiton we expressed our deep concern regarding the apparent unnecessary and excessive use of force against journalists and human rights defenders,” said the communication.

“The lack of investigation or response from police following complaints about the instances is deeply concerning, particularly in the case of Chandrabhushan Tiwari, who was exposing alleged police corruption,” Lawlor said.

It added that, “We fear that the lack of investigation and follow up with the human rights defenders may be a sign that corruption within the Indian police forces may extend beyond the officers reported to have taken bribes. We are deeply concerned that the unwarranted attacks against the journalists may be an attempt to clamp down on freedom of expression and silence reporting on human rights issues in India.”

If confirmed, these attacks would raise serious concerns regarding the environment in India for the lawful exercise of the journalistic profession, the statement reads.

“We also expressed our deep concern regarding the alleged raids on the home of Qazi Shibli and his family members. We fear that these raids are a worrying illustration of a pattern of targeted harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir, raising further serious concerns regarding the ability for journalists to exercise their profession free from threats or intimidation,” it concluded.

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