Fahad Shah, the editor-in-chief of news portal The Kashmir Walla, was arrested on Friday by the Pulwama Police in Jammu and Kashmir for posting alleged “anti-national” content on social media.
In a statement, the police identified Shah among some Facebook users who have allegedly been uploading “anti-national” content with the criminal intention to create fear among public and claimed that the content of these posts can lead to disturbance of law and order situation.
“It was also learnt that these Facebook users are uploading such posts which tantamount to glorifying the terrorist activities and causing dent to the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing ill-will and disaffection against the country,” they said.
The police said they had registered a first information report as such activities amount to commission of cognisable offences and during the course of investigation, Shah was arrested.
“The accused is on police remand,” they added. “The investigation into the matter is in progress.”
On Saturday, the Jammu and Kashmir Police said that Shah has been named in three FIRs, including the one for which he was arrested a day ago. They said that he is wanted for “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public for creating law and order situation”.
According to the FIR registered in Pulwama, Shah is being investigated for alleged sedition and making statements causing public mischief and of unlawful activities under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said that before his detention, Shah had told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the police questioned him on February 1 for an article published on The Kashmir Walla about a gun fight between militants and security forces on January 30. This article was then published the news portal’s website and Facebook page.
“The arrest of Fahad Shah shows Jammu and Kashmir authorities’ utter disregard for press freedom and the fundamental right of journalists to report freely and safely,” said Steven Butler, the organisation’s Asia programme coordinator. “Authorities must immediately release Shah, and all other journalists behind bars, and cease detaining and harassing journalists for simply doing their jobs.”
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone also condemned the arrest.
“What times we are living in,” Lone tweeted. “Just a word caution for the administration. This is not the worst that we in Kashmir have seen. We have seen even worse in nineties. That didn’t change anything. This won’t change anything either. Take my humble word for it.”
Mufti asked how many such journalists will the police arrest.
“Standing up for the truth is deemed anti national,” Mufti tweeted. “Showing the mirror to a deeply intolerant and authoritarian government is also anti national. Fahad’s journalistic work speaks for itself and depicts the ground reality unpalatable to GOI [government of India].”
In February last year, the police had booked Shah and The Kashmir Walla reporter Yashraj Sharma for reporting that a school in Shopian district had been forced by the Army to hold a Republic Day function on January 26.
The first information report against The Kashmir Walla journalists was registered on January 31, 2021, based on a complaint from the Indian Army, which accused them of spreading fake news. Besides them, the police had also named the website, The Kashmiriyat, for publishing the same report.
Another The Kashmir Walla journalist Sajad Gul was detained under the Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law, on January 16, 2022, a day after a court had given him bail in a criminal conspiracy case.
The journalist first was arrested on January 6 after he posted a video of family members and relatives of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Salim Parray protesting against his death in a gunfight on the outskirts of Srinagar. The video posted on his Twitter account on January 3 showed women shouting anti-government slogans during the protests.