26 July 2002
Colin Powell asked to bring up case of jailed Kashmiri journalist during his official visit
(RSF/IFEX) - On 26 July 2002, RSF called on United States Secretary of State Colin Powell to bring up the case of an imprisoned Kashmiri journalist during his forthcoming official visit to India.
"Your intervention in support of reporter Iftikhar Gilani, the New Delhi bureau chief of the 'Kashmir Times', one of the province's largest newspapers, would be of great symbolic importance for journalists in both Kashmir and India," noted RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard in a letter to Powell. "I am sure you will agree that independent media coverage is vital in the search for a political solution to the Kashmir conflict. Gilani is a respected journalist who was simply exercising his right to inform the public," Ménard said.
Gilani has been held in New Delhi's Tehar prison since 9 June. He was arrested by police and tax officials at his home for allegedly being a Pakistani spy and receiving money from the Pakistani government. However, because no proof existed to back these claims, he was charged under the Official Secrets Act on 11 June. Police claimed to have found secret documents at his home, but the journalist explained that they were excerpts from a 1997 United States State Department report and had already been published in the Indian daily "The Hindu". Gilani's lawyer, V.K.Ohri, demonstrated to the court that the documents did not constitute sufficient proof to find the journalist guilty under the Official Secrets Act, since the allegedly "secret" material was freely available on the Internet.
Since then, police have also charged Gilani with violating Article 292 of the Criminal Code, alleging that he screened pornographic films at his home. Judge Sangita Dhingra Sehgal objected to this new charge on 18 July, as it was added without the court's agreement, but she rejected a request to release the journalist on bail.
The Delhi Journalists' Union reported that Gilani was physically attacked in prison by other inmates, most of whom are criminals. Prison authorities have also refused to give the journalist access to the library.
RSF believes that Gilani was arrested solely because of his coverage of the Kashmir conflict, in which he criticised the Indian government.