“Arrested for doing his job”: Colleagues, family demand Fahad Shah’s release

It has been three days since Fahad Shah, Editor of The Kashmir Walla was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police.

But his colleagues at Kashmir Walla are hopeful that he will get bail as per law.

“We believe in the course of law and we know he will be treated fairly,” said a reporter at TKW. 

Yash Sharma, an assistant editor at TKW said that he was taken aback after he heard about Shah’s arrest on Friday.

“We had discussed earlier that such a situation could arise but this all was too shocking,” Sharma said to Maktoob.

On Saturday, Shah, 33, who was to be produced in front of a magistrate was remanded in 10 days police custody by the judicial magistrate, Pulwama.

The judge has asked the police to submit the grounds of detention.

Jammu and Kashmir police arrested Shah on Friday on the charges of sedition, and under draconian sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

It was around evening on Friday, when Aqib Shah, brother of Shah suddenly came to know through social media about the arrest of his brother. 

“Everyone in the family was numb. We didn’t eat anything. Our parents were very worried,” he said. 

Aqib said that the family always knew about the challenging part of Shah’s career. 

“But he isn’t the only one who was summoned. There are journalists who have been arrested and summoned. And we all knew how challenging his job was,” Aqib said. 

A statement issued by the district police in Pulwama stated that “some Facebook users and portals have been uploading anti-national content, including photographs, videos and posts with criminal intention to create fear among the public and the content so uploaded can provoke the public to disturb law & order.”

The police said that, during the course of investigation into the matter under FIR No. 19/2022, Shah was arrested and placed in police remand. “The investigation into the matter is in process,” the statement said.

Police said that it caused “dent to the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing ill-will and disaffection against the country.”

Maktoob talked to inspector general Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, who told that Shah is wanted in 3 cases for glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public for creating law and order situations.

“He has FIR No. 70/2020 of PS Safakadal Srinagar, FIR No. 06/2021 of PS Imamsahib, Shopian & currently has been arrested in FIR No. 19/2022 of PS Pulwama,” he said.

Umair Ronga, Shah’s lawyer told Maktoob that they have filed a bail application before judicial magistrate Pulwama today and court has directed the SHO concerned to file a report by Monday.

“After we receive the report, we will be able to know what exactly is the matter and accordingly we will pursue his case.”

As per his colleagues, Shah was called by the Pulwama police to record a statement in an on-going investigation launched after The Kashmir Walla published the reports on events at a gunfight in the south Kashmir district on 29 January 2020.

“He was sick and bedridden,” said one of the reporters at TKW.

The statement by TKW team on Saturday said that “under Shah’s decade-long leadership, The Kashmir Walla sailed through the devastating floods of 2014, the clampdown of August 2019, after New Delhi revoked the region’s limited-autonomy, and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists termed his arrest as “utter disregard for press freedom and the fundamental right of journalists to report freely and safely.”

The arrest of Shah is seen as a part of heightened levels of “official harassment” since the revocation of article 370.  

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Sunday condemned the arrest of Shah and asked the state administration to “respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security”.

Previously, Sajad Gul, an intern reporter with the Kashmir walla was arrested under Public Safety act.

On Shah’s arrest, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, “Standing up for the truth is deemed anti-national. Showing the mirror to a deeply intolerant & authoritarian government is also anti-national. Fahad’s journalistic work speaks for itself & depicts the ground reality unpalatable to GOI. How many Fahads will you arrest?” Mehbooba said in a tweet soon after Fahad’s arrest by the state police.”

Aqib, Shah’s brother, said that his brother wasn’t posting anything on Twitter individually but was an editor of a known publication.

“It has been 10 years since he has been doing honest journalism. He has remained unbiased, and what he did was just reporting,” he said.

He said that no matter what, the TKW team will continue pursuing the truth through their reporting and his brother will get justice.