Srinagar: Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have re-arrested journalist Fahad Shah – who has been in custody for more than 20 days – after a special court under National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act in Srinagar granted interim bail to him earlier on Saturday.
Thirty-three-year-old Shah was arrested by Shopian police in another case registered in January 2021 against The Kashmir Walla – run by Shah – and is now lodged in the Imam Sahib police station under FIR 06/2021, according to a statement by the Walla team.
Shah is facing charges under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. Earlier, Shah was arrested by police in South Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 4 under FIR 19/2021 on charges of sedition and under the anti-terror law.
The court, however, granted him an interim bail till March 12 on furnishing bail bonds with one surety and put conditions on Shah. He was asked to appear before the Investigating Officer (IO) and cooperate with the IO as and when directed.
“The accused should not leave the state without seeking prior permission of the court and will not change his residence during the said period. Any violation of the aforesaid conditions should warrant cancellation of the bail,” the court said
Many including the family, colleagues, and friends of Shah had termed it a relief for the incarcerated journalist.
“The majesty of law has been upheld; the Special Court designated under the NIA act admitted to interim bail. The administration couldn’t dominate maliciously, while the judiciary rescued him courageously. Thank you for the support from every corner and everyone,” Shah’s lawyer Umair Ronga said in a tweet.
But, colleagues of Shah later confirmed that he was not released. Apart from being the editor of The Kashmir Walla, Shah is a regular contributor for international publications including Foreign Affairs, TIME, and Foreign Policy. He was awarded the prestigious 25th Human Rights Press Awards 2021 in explanatory feature writing for his coverage of Delhi communal violence in February 2020, according to a statement issued on Shah.
“Shah co-operated in the legal formalities for the custodial handover. The Kashmir Walla team continue to repose faith in the judiciary and hope that supremacy of law will prevail again,” the statement from his team read, adding an appeal to Manoj Sinha-led Jammu and Kashmir administration for his immediate release.
International rights groups and media bodies have questioned his arrest and demanded Shah’s release claiming that he is being targeted for his reportage in the region. Shah's arrest came days after another of his colleagues Sajad Gul was arrested and later booked under Public Safety Act (PSA).
The rights groups have expressed concerns over the safety of journalists working in Kashmir. The fresh assault on reporters in the region, rights groups like HRW, say are aimed to “frighten off the media for doing its job and reporting on abuses”.
Situation in Jammu and Kashmir has worsened since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A following which many members of the civil society in the region including activists, politicians, and businessmen have faced arrests.
In a statement issued following the arrest of Shah, the Editors Guild of India (EGI) urged the J&K administration to respect “democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security.”