Concern over Indian journalist's detention, media shutdown in Kashmir
According to reports from partners in India, a curfew was imposed in several districts of Kashmir early in the morning of February 9, just prior to the execution, which was formally announced shortly after 8 a.m.
At around 10:30 a.m., Iftikhar Gilani, a senior journalist with the multi-edition newspaper Daily News and Analysis, was approached by two men as he left his Delhi home for work. He was asked for directions to the residence of the dissident Kashmiri politician Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who happens to be his father-in-law.
Gilani showed the two men to the nearby location of interest, in the belief that they may be from a courier agency. Once there, the two men identified themselves as personnel of the Special Cell of Delhi Police and forced Gilani indoors. A little later, Gilani's wife was also escorted to the flat by two other policemen.
Gilani and his wife were detained for five hours and released only after colleagues intervened at the highest levels of the Delhi Police. During this time, his own home was occupied by personnel of the Special Cell and his children put through considerable trauma.
The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), a constituent unit of the IFJ-affiliate, the Indian Journalists' Union, has condemned Gilani's detention and the harassment of his family.
In a statement issued on February 10, the DUJ called for action against the police personnel responsible for Gilani's most recent ordeal, and also recalled his seven months of incarceration in 2002 on trumped up charges under the Official Secrets Act.
Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), has, in a strongly worded letter to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, characterised the actions of the Delhi Police as "high-handed" and "outrageous" and demanded disciplinary proceedings against the men responsible.
Gilani has been working as a journalist in Delhi for over twenty years and is well respected for his professionalism and independence.
Meanwhile, the curfew imposed in most districts of Kashmir and the retaliatory general strike called by dissident political organisations, have paralysed all activity in the region.
IFJ sources in Kashmir report that journalists have managed to reach their places of work despite these adversities, though newspaper publication and local news broadcasts have been suspended after several media offices were visited by policemen who handed out informal advisories. This intervention reportedly came late on the evening of February 9, when most newspapers were getting ready to print.
Internet and mobile phone services in Kashmir have also been partly disabled.
"We fully endorse the demand made by our partners in the DUJ and by the chairman of the PCI, that the officials responsible for Gilani's harassment be identified and subject to the full range of sanctions applicable", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
"We also call for the restoration of all facilities and the rights to free movement for media personnel in Kashmir and the resumption of normal publishing and broadcasting by all media organisations in the region".