New York: The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on the European Union to hold Narendra Modi-led Indian government accountable for widespread and severe press freedom violations in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir and across India.
The CPJ urged the EU to raise press freedom abuses with the Indian authorities during the annual India-EU Human Rights Dialogue to be held on Friday (today).
“The dialogue should be an opportunity for the EU to raise press freedom abuses with the Indian government, led by the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). However, statements from previous dialogues have been limited in scope,” said Tom Gibson, CPJ’s EU representative, according to a release on the CPJ website.
Gibson further said, “As India seeks to gloss over its abysmal press freedom record, the EU must unequivocally condemn its harsh crackdown on journalists and media organizations, and make clear, verifiable demands, including the release of arbitrarily detained journalists”. “The EU should question what type of relationship it is building if critical journalists in India and Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir cannot report without risking harassment, detention, abuse, or even death.”
Gibson cited several press freedom violations and attacks on journalists in IIOJK and India documented by the CPJ and asked EU to press India for action on them.
In this regard, CPJ said, “Authorities’ use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law, to keep Kashmiri journalists Aasif Sultan, Fahad Shah, and Sajad Gul behind bars after they were granted court-ordered bail in separate cases”.
The CPJ mentions the ongoing pretrial detention of Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Siddique Kappan, and Manan Dar under India’s draconian anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Citing new reports, it says Navlakha and Teltumbde are detained in “anda” (“egg”) cells, akin to solitary confinement, according to news reports.
“Indian authorities’ use of politically motivated charges to imprison journalists and their denunciation of critical journalists as attackers of traditional Hindu values. In June 2022, Delhi police arrested outspoken Muslim journalist Mohammed Zubair, himself an advocate against hate speech and disinformation, for a satirical tweet. On July 12, 2022, the Uttar Pradesh police formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe six cases registered against Zubair in the state”.
The CPJ also wants complete investigation into the deaths of five journalists killed because of their work in 2021 and prosecution of anyone implicated in the killings.
Gibson also said, “There are particular risks facing journalists from minority communities, including Muslims, when reporting on sectarian discrimination and violence. At least 20 female Muslim journalists were listed “for sale” in the notorious Bulli (derogatory slang for Muslim women) Bai (a female servant) app, according to CPJ research. A January 2022 investigation by The Wire found that female journalists and others were victims of online abuse through Tek Fog, an app said to be used as a propaganda tool by BJP-affiliated operatives.”
He pointed out that CPJ’s 2021 annual prison census found that seven journalists were detained in India and IIOJK as of December 1, 2021, setting the country’s record for the highest number of detained journalists since at least 1992.