While the international journalistic community is focused on the fate of Evan Gershkowitz, the Wall Street Journal reporter who’s been held by Vladimir Putin’s Russia since March 29, Russia is far from the only country where journalism has been criminalized. Sadly, one of those places is India, still sometimes described as the world’s largest democracy, but which has taken an authoritarian turn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Among the journalists who’ve gotten caught up in Modi’s repression is Fahad Shah, who’s based in Kashmir and is a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor. Shah was released on bail recently after spending 658 days in jail on charges of “glorifying terrorism,” publishing “anti-national content” and illegally receiving foreign funds. The court system, however, ordered that Shah be freed on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence. The Monitor’s Aakash Hassan reports:
Global media watchdogs and journalists from the region view Mr. Shah’s experience as part of a wider crackdown on media in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where authorities have been accused of intimidation, harassment, and the systematic targeting of critical voices. Press freedom advocates have welcomed Mr. Shah’s release, demanding that all remaining charges against him be dropped and the blockade on his popular news portal, The Kashmir Walla, be reversed.
Reports Without Borders ranks India 161st on its list of 180 countries in terms of press freedoms, observing:
The violence against journalists, the politically partisan media and the concentration of media ownership all demonstrate that press freedom is in crisis in “the world’s largest democracy,” ruled since 2014 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the embodiment of the Hindu nationalist right.