Media and human rights groups have condemned the arrest of Kashmir journalist Irfan Mehraj, issuing statements calling for his release.
Mehraj was by the National Investigation Agency on Monday in connection with a “terror funding” case. He was booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The NIA said Mehraj “close associate” of human rights activist Khurram Parvez and was “working” with Parvez’s J&K Coalition of Civil Societies, which it accused of “funding terror activities in the valley”. Parvez had been arrested in November 2021.
The Editors Guild said Mehraj’s arrest “continues a trend in Kashmir of security forces arresting journalists because of their critical reporting of the establishment”.
“The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security,” it said in a statement.
The Press Club of India said it “vehemently” opposes the imposing of UAPA on mediapersons. “The misuse of this draconian law by NIA in randomly arresting Irfan Mehraj, a journalist from Kashmir ominously points towards a violation of freedom of speech and expression.”
Amnesty India demanded Mehraj’s “immediate release”. Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India, saying his arrest under terror charges was “a travesty”.
“The arrest is yet another instance of the long-drawn repression of human rights and the crackdown on media freedoms and civil society in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. The stifling of the rights to freedom of expression and association continue unabated in Kashmir,” Patel’s statement said. “...Human rights defenders such as Irfan Mehraj should be encouraged and protected, not persecuted. He must be immediately released. The repression must stop.”