A Kashmir-based journalist who was arrested during a nocturnal raid yesterday (June 24) at his residence was released on bail after a court appearance today. Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, 62, editor and publisher of Urdu daily Aafaq, told NewsClick, “My arrest was a strong message to the media fraternity to keep quiet and not to fall out of the line.” Qadri is also a member of the Kashmir Editors’ Guild.
Recalling the sequence of incidents that took place, Qadri said, “It was a pure case of harassing a journalist. Police raided my house at 12.30 in the night and confirmed my name. Then they arrested me and as I reached the police station, I was asked whether I am aware of the reason behind the arrested. I replied that I did not know.”
A local daily Excelsior reported a police officer as saying, “police was busy during the day” and hence the arrest was made in the middle of the night.
The case under which Qadri was arrested dates back to 1990, when he along with nine other journalists, who were working in a now defunct local news agency J&K (Jammu and Kashmir) News, had published a statement by a militant group. Following this, an arrest warrant was issued in 1993 but no action was taken.
Also read: Kashmir: Dangerous Times for Media in the Valley
The arrest has led journalists in Kashmir to question the motive behind invoking an arrest warrant 25 years later after it was issued in 1993. Speaking to NewsClick, Qadri said, “Why was the 1993 arrest warrant executed today and why against me? This will answer all your questions. When the militant statement was published by the agencies, we had no clue of any case against us and no action was taken.”
The journalist was arrested under the anti-terror law, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, commonly known as TADA. The law was enacted in 1985 and was lapsed in 1995 due to increasing “unpopularity after widespread allegations of abuse”.
Publishing statements by militants is not a new thing. After the emergence of militancy, militant groups since the 1990s have been giving statements to agencies to publish.
The police has shown that Qadri has been absconding since the warrant was issued against him. While the court today asked the police “to explain their position in the case registered against him in 1993 and declaring him absconding while he had re-issued his passport twice”. Qadri said, “They said I was absconding while I have been attending the office every day. I was the most visible face in the press colony. I would take some break from work and stroll in the colony. I have issued my passport twice. How come I am absconding then?”
The next hearing of the case is scheduled on July 31.
The targeting, intimidation and arbitrary arrests of journalists in Kashmir has become a routine. The journalists in Kashmir believe that these arrests, intimidations and maltreatment of journalists is a political act aimed at suppressing the media coverage in the conflict-torn region.
Recently, NewsClick’s photo journalist Kamran Yousuf, along with another journalist Nisar Ul Haq were beaten up, harassed and intimated by JK police for covering an encounter. Their cameras were snatched and were given back after pleading.