A new report by the New York Times has shed light on the serious violations faced by journalists in the India-administered Kashmir and Jammu region. Some have been arrested under laws that allow people to be held for extended periods without trial, and that makes bail terms extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible.
Written by the investigative journalist Suhasini Raj, the report said many journalists are being held under the stringent Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law that lets the region’s authorities keep a suspect in jail for a maximum of two years — without any formal criminal charges being filed, and so without any trial and with no hope for bail — if local authorities contend that the person presents a security risk or a threat to public order.
Activists argue that the law violates international human rights, and lawyers say the Indian authorities have used it to round up Kashmiris posing no threat of violence, including journalists, students and those with sizable political or economic sway in the region.
“The Public Safety Act is based on the apprehension that one may do something illegal and not that one may have done something illegal,” said Shafqat Nazir, a lawyer who practices at the High Court of Srinagar, Kashmir’s largest city. “Just on the basis of an apprehension, one can rot in jail for two years.”
Aasif Sultan, a journalist in Kashmir, was first detained by the Indian authorities in 2018.
After being held in jail for close to four years awaiting trial on charges of aiding militants, the Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan was granted bail by the courts last week, and he thought he could finally return home to his wife and his daughter, who was just 6 months old when he was arrested.
Sultan’s experience — detention extended either just after a court grants bail or just before a bail hearing — has become a pattern, applied against at least two other Kashmiri journalists arrested in recent months.
The practice, employed against at least three journalists in the restive region, is being used to limit free speech and chill news reporting, activists say.