Out of 7 Incarcerated Journalists in India, Five are Muslims

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CPJ report berates India for its treatment of the media. China, Myanmar, Turkey, and Belarus called ‘this year’s top five jailers of journalists’

Waquar Hasan | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Out of seven incarcerated journalists in India, as mentioned in the 2022 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), five scribes are Muslims, four of them from Jammu and Kashmir.

The report notes that India continues to face criticism for its treatment of the media.

The report titled “Number of jailed journalists spikes to new global record ” mentions the names of Kashmiri journalists arrested under the draconian PSA (Public Safety Act).

“India, with seven journalists in jail, continues to draw criticism over its treatment of the media, in particular its 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,” notes the report.

Besides three Kashmiri journalists, Siddique Kappan, Gautam Navalakha, Manan Dar and Rupesh Kumar Singh are among the jailed journalists as noted by the CPJ.

With regard to the global situation, the report points out that it’s been another record-breaking year for the number of journalists jailed for practicing their profession. The CPJ’s annual prison census has found that 363 reporters were deprived of their freedom as of December 1, 2022 – “a new global high that overtakes last year’s record by 20% and marks another grim milestone in a deteriorating media landscape”.

The report calls Iran, China, Myanmar, Turkey, and Belarus “this year’s top five jailers of journalists”.

“A key driver behind authoritarian governments’ increasingly oppressive efforts to stifle the media: trying to keep the lid on broiling discontent in a world disrupted by COVID-19 and the economic fallout from Russia’s war on Ukraine,” says the report.

The CJP report points out that imprisoning journalists is just one measure of how authoritarian leaders try to strangle press freedom. Around the world, governments are also honing tactics like “fake news” laws, and are using criminal defamation and vaguely worded legislation to criminalize journalism,  ignoring the rule of law and abusing the judicial system, and exploiting technology to spy on reporters and their families.

With regard to Iran, the report says dozens of journalists were among the estimated 14,000 Iranians arrested during the crackdown on protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, arrested for allegedly breaking Iran’s hijab law.

“Since September, demonstrations have spread nationwide, with protesters broadening demands for women’s rights to calls for strikes and the overthrowing of Iran’s leaders. Authorities have imprisoned a record number of female journalists – 22 out of the 49 arrested since the start of the protests are women,” it said.

When it comes to China, the report notes tightening online censorship by the authorities during recent protests over the government’s zero-COVID lockdown policies and several journalists were reported to have been briefly detained while covering the demonstrations.

“In China, many imprisoned journalists are ethnic Uighurs from Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of crimes against humanity for its mass detentions and harsh repression of the region’s mostly Muslim ethnic groups,” says the report.

In Turkey, where the Constitutional Court ordered a retrial for Hatice Duman – already 20 years into a life sentence – the journalist told an Istanbul court this month that prison officials had confiscated her legal documents and notes several weeks ahead of the trial, thereby violating her right to prepare for her defense, says the report.  

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