SRINAGAR, Jammu & Kashmir (AA) – A freelance journalist, Irfan Mehraj, in Indian-occupied Kashmir has been arrested by the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with an ongoing probe into alleged “NGO terror funding case,” said an official statement released on Tuesday.
“Following comprehensive investigations into the NGO Terror funding case registered in October 2020, the National Investigation Agency arrested Irfan Mehraj from Srinagar (J&K) yesterday (20.03.2023),” said the Agency spokesman in a statement.
Mehraj, who worked as a freelancer and an online editor with the twocircles.net, was arrested from his hometown Srinagar, the capital city of the region, on Monday evening.
One of his family members told Anadolu that Mehraj was on an assignment when he was called by the investigation agency at their office in Srinagar.
“We came to know . . . later that he has been arrested and taken to Delhi,” the family member said.
As per the statement, Mehraj is the first arrest made in connection with the case.
The case dates back to October 2020.
Incarcerated Kashmir human rights activist Khurram Parvez is also an accused in the same case and has been in jail since 2021.
The statement by the agency said that Mehraj was a close associate of Parvez and was working with his organization, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS), where he was working as a researcher.
“Investigation revealed that the JKCCS was funding terror activities in the Kashmir valley and had also been in propagation of secessionist agenda under the garb of protection of human rights,” read the statement.
Mehraj’s arrest was condemned by many in Kashmir, including journalists, who termed his arrest a measure to silence the press in Kashmir.
The Journalist Federation of Kashmir, a media advocacy group, condemned the arrest.
Referring to Mehraj as a hard working journalist in the region, it said: “His arrest seems to be another tactic of intimidating journalists in Kashmir who have always worked under perilous conditions, holding up values of press freedom in the face of dangers to life and liberty.”
It further said that for a vibrant press to flourish, authorities have to move beyond hollow claims of respect for press freedom and work towards a conducive environment where a journalist can report the facts on ground and express opinion on social media without fear and the threat of arrest.
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also condemned the arrest and slammed the authorities for giving free run to “impostors” while punishing journalists in the region for their work.
“While conmen are given a free run in Kashmir, journalists like Irfan Mehraj are arrested for doing their duty by speaking the truth. Draconian laws like UAPA are abused constantly to ensure that the process itself becomes the punishment,” the former chief minister tweeted.