“That cell haunts every breath of yours. It was a cage. And it did to me what a cage does to the bird. ” said Qazi Shibli, a journalist, released after nine months while talking to The Kashmir Walla, a local news magazine.
Shibli, the editor of The Kashmiriyat, a news website based in South Kashmir was arrested under the Public Safety Act 1978, an act that’s often been called ‘draconian’, which Amnesty International called ‘lawless’.
He was arrested on July 27, 2019, after he tweeted an official order regarding the deployment of additional paramilitary troops across the region. First detained in South Kashmir’s Anatnag district later shifted to the Bareilly jail where many other political prisoners were kept, he was held without contacts to his family or his lawyer.
In a report published in the Huffington Post, Shibli’s sister had said that He was detained in connection with his tweets on additional troop deployment in Kashmir. He had often been called to the police station for publishing ‘anti-national’ news.
However, police had said that he was arrested under charges that include ‘waging war against the Union of India’ and ‘seceding the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the rest of the country’. He was among the 412 prisoners who had been booked under the PSA.
Shibli’s PSA got revoked on 13 April, he was released and reached home on 25 April.
Shibli, while talking to the Kashmir Walla said “That cell haunts every breath of yours. It was a cage. And it did to me what a cage does to the bird.” He also said that he was allowed books and stationary only after he sat on a hunger strike.
On his release, Shibli, thanked the people who had campaigned for his release, he took to Twitter and wrote “I express my gratitude to the wider international and local media, activists, and friends sharing faith in humanity who campaigned for my release. In this arduous journey of resistance, in which one thread is my imprisonment of nine months. Nonetheless, I resist!”
“As a responsible journalist, speaking truth to the power is my duty and I voice for the release of all journalists and activists who have been booked. The witch-hunt has to be called out and stopped.” The Tweet further read.
Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed his release and called it a ‘good news’.
In April, the Jammu and Kashmir police booked two more journalists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for some of their social media posts. Peerzada Ashiq, a special correspondent of the Hindu was summoned by the police. Journalists in the region have called these attempts to silence the dissenting voice, many have compared it to an Orwellian state.
Aasif Sultan, editor of the Kashmir Narrator, is behind bars for more than 20 months now, he was booked under the UAPA–Masrat Zahra and Gowhar Geelani have been booked under the same law.
Shibli and Aasif, in the past, had been defended by the Committee to Protect Journalists, many campaigns were run by different organizations for their release. Shibli had listed by the Time Magazine in the “10 ‘Most Urgent’ Threats to Press Freedom”while Aasif received the Press Freedom Award by American National Press Club.
Kashmiri journalists, over the years, have been harassed, beaten up, kidnapped and even killed for doing their professional duties. A list of Journalists attacked in Kashmir was published by Free Press Kashmir in 2017.