The arrest of freelance Kashmir journalist Irfan Mehraj by the National Investigation Agency was condemned by prominent national and international media bodies, including the Editors Guild of India (EGI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), on Wednesday.
While the EGI urged the government to stop the “harassment of journalists in the name of national security”, the RSF said special laws intended to combat terrorism should not be used to “suppress the activities” of journalists.
“The Editors Guild of India is deeply concerned about the excessive use of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against journalists, most recently, in the case of the arrest of Irfan Mehraj, a Kashmir-based journalist, by the National Investigation Agency (NIA),” the EGI said in a statement.
The NIA arrested Irfan Mehraj, a freelance journalist from Srinagar, in connection with an alleged case of terror funding by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Valley, the agency said on Tuesday. Mehraj is the first accused arrested in the case which was registered by the NIA in 2020. The agency also said that Mehraj is an associate of human rights activist Khurram Parvez, coordinator of human rights organisation, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS), who was arrested for criminal conspiracy and terror-funding charges.
Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, in a statement said, “Irfan Mehraj is an experienced, responsible and careful reporter who has no place being in prison.”
The EGI quoting reports said that on the afternoon of March 20, Mehraj was called by an investigator on his mobile phone and told to come for a few minutes to the local NIA office in Srinagar. “Thereafter, he was arrested and, subsequently, shifted to Delhi. Irfan has been booked under the UAPA,” it said.