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Police arrest newspaper publisher in midnight raid in Indian Kashmir


By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR (Reuters) - Police arrested the publisher of one of the most widely read newspapers in Indian-controlled Kashmir in a midnight raid over a decades-old case, the police and his brother said on Tuesday, highlighting the difficulties facing media in the region.

Tension has run high in the Himalayan region since more than 40 Indian police were killed in a February suicide car bomb attack by a militant group based in Pakistan.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the heart of more than seven decades of hostility between nuclear archrivals India and Pakistan. Each claims it in full but rules only a part.

Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, 62, a journalist and the publisher of the Urdu-language newspaper Daily Afaaq, was arrested at his home in the region's main city of Srinagar, half an hour before midnight on Monday.

"It is harassment," his brother, Mohammad Morifat Qadri, told Reuters. "Why is a 1993 arrest warrant executed today? And why against him only?"

Qadri was released on bail after a court appearance on Tuesday.

The case dates from 1990, when Qadri was one of nine journalists to publish a statement by a militant group fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir. An arrest warrant for Qadri was issued in 1993, but it was never served.

Qadri had visited the police station involved in the arrest multiple times since the warrant was issued, most recently in 2017 to apply for a passport, his brother added.

Asked why Qadri was arrested at night, Srinagar police chief Haseeb Mughal told Reuters, "Police were busy during the day."

The Kashmir Union of Working Journalists condemned the arrest, saying it seemed to be aimed at muzzling the press.

"Qadri was attending the office on a daily basis and there was absolutely no need for carrying out a midnight raid at his residence," it said in a statement.

Journalists in Kashmir find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Indian government and militant groups battling for independence.

Both sides are stepping up efforts to control the flow of information, with the situation at its worst in decades, dozens of journalists have told Reuters.

India is one of the world's worst places to be a journalist, ranked 138th among 180 countries on the press freedom index of international monitor Reporters Without Borders, with conditions in Kashmir cited as a key reason.

(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in SRINAGAR Writing by Alasdair Pal in NEW DELHI; Editing by Martin Howell and Clarence Fernandez)

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