Kashmir police threaten to investigate The Wire news site

Washington, DC, July 6, 2021 – Police in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir should stop harassing journalist Siddharth Varadarajan and Thread, and allow journalists to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On July 3, the Kashmir Zone Police Headquarters issued a formal notice to Varadarajan, editor of the independent news website Thread, stating that police are considering legal action against the outlet for allegedly “spreading concocted stories” and “peddling rumours”, and demanding a response from Varadarajan to the allegations within a week, according to a copy of the order, which CPJ reviewed, and Varadarajan, who spoke to CPJ via the messaging app.

The police document cites an article from June 7 concerning the murder of a Kashmiri resident in police custody, and an article from June 28 on the murder of a policeman in Pulwama district. Varadarajan told CPJ that Thread stood near the two stories.

“Jammu and Kashmir authorities’ notice threatening journalist Siddarth Varadarajan with legal action only adds to targeted harassment Thread in obvious retaliation for his critical reporting,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator, in Washington, DC. “Authorities should immediately withdraw the advisory and allow Thread and all media to report freely on matters of public interest.

Rohit Kansal, spokesperson for the government of Jammu and Kashmir, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment sent via the messaging app. CPJ also emailed Kashmir Police Inspector General Vijay Kumar for comment, but received no response.

Last month, Uttar Pradesh state police opened a criminal investigation into Thread and three other journalists for allegedly sharing an unverified video that could cause social unrest, as CPJ documented at the time.

Previously, in April 2020, Uttar Pradesh Police filed a criminal complaint against Varadarajan for allegedly spreading discord, enmity and rumors during the COVID-19 lockdown.