The IPI global network calls for the immediate release of Kashmir journalist Sajad Gul, who was arrested by police on January 5 after he published a video on Twitter of a protest in which demonstrators shouted anti-Indian slogans. IPI strongly condemns the authorities’ actions and demands an end to the harassment of journalists in Indian-administered Kashmir.

On January 5, Sajad Gul, a 26-year-old trainee reporter with The Kashmir Walla, was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir police in Srinagar, the largest city in Indian-administered Kashmir, according to media reports.

Gul’s brother told Indian news site The Wire that Gul was first approached by an army officer at his home in Bandipora district who asked him to come outside. The army then took custody of Gul. His brother said someone answered Gul’s phone after he was arrested, with Gul telling the family from a distance to tell the media about his arrest.

On Jan. 7, The Kashmir Walla confirmed Gul’s arrest, reporting that the government charged him with inciting the public to fear or alarm, among other charges. If sentenced, Gul could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

The video posted by Gul showed a protest by the family of a militant commander who was recently killed.

The police said in a statement on Jan. 8 that Gul uploaded “objectionable videos” and was “spreading disinformation/false narratives through different social media platforms in order to create ill will against the government”. Authorities claimed Gul was working against national integration and had provoked dissent.

“The arrest of Sajad Gul is a blatant case of targeting the messenger”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “The job of a journalist is to cover events of public interest, which is exactly what Sajad Gul did. Punishing him for the protesters’ conduct is absurd, and amounts to the criminalization of journalistic activity. IPI calls for the immediate release of Sajad Gul and for an end to the continued harassment and intimidation of the press in Indian-administered Kashmir.”

The Kashmir Press Club, calling for the release of Gul, wrote in a statement that the “threats, summons and arrests of the media persons have effectively restrained independent and investigative reporting from the region”.

Kashmir is disputed between India and Pakistan. In 2019, India stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status and divided the region into two union territories, which are administered by India’s central government. To diminish protests, the government placed severe restrictions on the internet and arrested journalists, politicians, and activists in the region.

Since then, the press has been severely restricted in Kashmir. IPI has repeatedly called on the authorities to end the media crackdown in Indian-administered Kashmir amid a rise in arrests and harassment of journalists.

The restrictions in Kashmir come amid a wider backslide in press freedom in India, including the abuse of archaic laws to prosecute journalists as well as illegal surveillance.