SRINAGAR – Incarcerated Kashmiri Journalist Asif Sultan has won the prestigious International John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award for the year 2019. The award was given by The National Press Club USA earlier this week at an event held in Washington DC.
Each year, the Club gives its Aubuchon award to one journalist from the United States and one from overseas who bravely pushes to disclose the truth in trying circumstances.
The Club chose Asif Sultan because the situation is so unjust and dire and because his case reflects the crises in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir for journalists and citizens there, John Donnelly, who received the award on behalf of Sultan, said.
The Club had made the announcement of awarding Sultan in August through a press release.
Asif Sultan was arrested by police in a nocturnal raid on his home in August 2018. Authorities maintain that he has been imprisoned on the charges of harbouring militants. Months before his arrest he wrote a news report in Kashmir Narrator, a monthly magazine published from Srinagar Kashmir about the rise of popular militant commander Burhan Wani.
Wani was killed by the Indian army in a gun battle on the evening of July 8, 2016, in Bemdoora village in Kashmir’s Anantnag district. His killing sent the entire Kashmir valley into a month’s long unrest during which nearly hundred civilians were killed in paramilitary action. Moreover, the unrest saw widespread use of pellet gun leaving hundreds blind and thousands injured.
Journalists in Kashmir have staged protests several times appe demanding to drop charges levelled against him and release him.
“Before he was imprisoned police seized his electronic devices and notebooks and they interrogated him about his sources and they tried to get him to become their informant.” The presenter at the event said in her announcement. “Sultan’s case reflects the worsening conditions for press and citizenry in Kashmir.”
In August this year, the Indian government removed Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional protection and imposed a communication lockdown in the region shutting cell and internet services. Besides, authorities imprisoned thousands of Kashmiris, many under the Public Safety Act, including children as young as nine during a suppressive crackdown.
According to family sources, several court hearings in sultan’s case in the past three months could not take place due to the ongoing lockdown in Kashmir valley.
“Largely as a result of that crackdown it was not practical for any of Asif’s family to come here and receive the award,” Donelly said. However, a video message by Omar Sultan, the jailed journalist’s brother, was played out at the event.
The club lashed out at India for violating the rights of the journalists in Kashmir. A press release dated August 22 by the club announcing the award quotes the club president: “It is completely unacceptable for India to violate the basic human rights of reporters and to deny the people of Kashmir access to unfiltered information through an unfettered press.”
Mackenzie Mays, a Politico journalist, won the domestic award. According to the Club Mays has doggedly produced important accountability journalism despite harassment from powerful people.
Via : Carvan Daily