CPJ asks GoI to stop harassing journalists and employees of Greater Kashmir newspaper

New Delhi: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday said that the Indian authorities should stop harassing journalists and employees of the Greater Kashmir newspaper.

In a statement, CPJ said that Fayaz Kaloo, the editor-in-chief of the privately-owned newspaper–one of the leading dailies in Jammu and Kashmir state–was questioned for nearly a week by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), according to news reports.

Srinagar-based Kaloo was first summoned for questioning to the NIA’s New Delhi office on June 28, daily newspaper The Telegraph reported. When he did not appear, the NIA called Kaloo directly, and he presented himself to the agency on July 1, according to The Telegraph. 

Under Indian law, the NIA–which is responsible for investigating terrorism–can summon anyone without a warrant or charge for questioning in an ongoing investigation, CPJ statement added.

Kaloo was interrogated for six days at the NIA’s headquarters about articles published in Greater Kashmir during unrest in 2016 that erupted after Indian security forces killed militant Burhan Wani, according to The Quint. 

According to news website The Wire, Kaloo was questioned in connection with an investigation into “terror funding” in Kashmir.

The Quint reported that Kaloo was also asked about his income, properties, and trips abroad. CPJ was not able to determine the exact content of the questions. Every evening, he was allowed to leave but asked to return the next day, according to The Quint. Kaloo was questioned for six consecutive days.

“Extensively questioning an editor about the content of published news stories goes way beyond any legitimate role for law enforcement and will only put a further chill on press freedom in Kashmir,” said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. 

“India’s National Investigation Agency should halt the investigation of Fayaz Kaloo and Greater Kashmir immediately.”

The Telegraph also reported that the general manager of the newspaper, Rashid Makhdoomi, was summoned and questioned by the NIA.

Kaloo declined to speak to CPJ. NIA spokesperson Alok Mittal did not respond to CPJ’s text message requesting comment on the questioning of Kaloo.

“In February, the Jammu and Kashmir state government, which is controlled by New Delhi, stopped buying space for advertisement with Greater Kashmir, as well as another leading daily, the Kashmir Reader, CPJ reported. 

Newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir are dependent on government advertisements in the absence of a robust private industry, one local editor told CPJ at the time.”

A senior editor with Greater Kashmir, who asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns, told CPJ that the salaries of journalists at the newspaper have fallen sharply since the government stopped buying advertising. “This is sad. Now if they institute a case, the paper is gone,” he said.

In July 2018, the NIA summoned and questioned journalist Auqib Javeed for his interview of a separatist leader in a Sunday insert of Greater Kashmir.

Kashmir Narrator reporter Aasif Sultan has been imprisoned in Jammu and Kashmir since August 2016, after he wrote a cover story about the slain militant Burhan Wani.