Media Groups Slam Journalist Irfan Mehraj's Arrest, Call for his Release
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Srinagar: Media groups and rights bodies have condemned the arrest of Kashmiri journalist Irfan Mehraj by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and demanded his immediate release.
In a statement, the Editors Guild of India said it is deeply concerned about the excessive use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against journalists, which the body termed as “draconian”.
“The Guild urges the state administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security,” EGI said.
The Press Club of India (PCI) also slammed the arrest of Mehraj and called out the misuse of UAPA, which the body said was being used against freedom of speech and expression.
“We vehemently oppose the imposing of UAPA on media persons. 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. We demand his immediate release,” the body said.
The 32-year-old journalist was arrested earlier on Monday after NIA summoned him in Srinagar. After questioning, the agency informed his family about his arrest in a case related to alleged “terror funding” through a prominent human rights body- Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). Mehraj has since been shifted to New Delhi where he will be produced before a court.
Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders also called for the release of Mehraj, whom the NIA said worked closely with another detained human rights defender Khurram Parvez.
“I'm deeply concerned about Kashmiri HRD and journalist @IrfanMeraj. He was called to come to the @NIA_India office in Srinagar and arrested in a 2020 case, accused of serious offences. I call for his immediate release,” Lawlor tweeted.
Mehraj, who has been working as a journalist in Jammu and Kashmir since 2015 has widely covered politics and human rights in the region. His work has appeared in leading global news platforms including Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, TRT and The Caravan. Mehraj's arrest, the editor’s guild said, continues a trend in Kashmir of security forces arresting journalists because of their critical reporting of the establishment. Mehraj is the fourth journalist in Kashmir to have been arrested after Aasif Sultan, Sajad Gul, and Fahad Shah.
Responding to the arrest of Mehraj by the NIA, Aakar Patel, chair of the board at Amnesty International India, termed it 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 was quoted as saying.
“Indian authorities should prioritize ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders and journalists have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure that human rights defenders and activists can work in a safe and enabling environment without any fear of reprisals,” the statement read.
“Amnesty International with ten other leading human rights organizations also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Khurram Parvez, who was arrested on November 22, 2021, on politically motivated terrorism and other charges.”
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