Original article here.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ), founded by Hollywood actor, producer and screenwriter George Clooney and his lawyer wife Amal Clooney, has announced it will monitor the trial of Kashmiri journalist Aasif Sultan, who has been in detention for more than two years on terror charges. He has been accused of sheltering the militants who killed a policeman on August 12, 2018 during a gun battle in Srinagar’s crowded Batamaloo area – an accusation his family and lawyers deny.
Sultan, who has received the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award from the American National Press Club in 2019, featured in TIME magazine’s 10 ‘Most Urgent’ cases of threats to press freedom around the world last year.
The Clooney Foundation statement joins a string of similar previous interventions where high-profile foreign personalities have weighed in on events unfolding in India, part of the intensifying international scrutiny of India’s treatment of dissenters, journalists and activists under the Modi government.
Earlier this week, seven UN Special Rapporteurs wrote to the Indian government seeking information on the factual basis of investigations involving cases against human rights defenders and journalists in Kashmir including Parvaiz Bukhari, Khurram Parvez and Parveena Ahangar.
“The Clooney Foundation for Justice calls on the authorities to ensure that Sultan’s bail hearing is conducted in accordance with international human rights law and any proceedings against him respect his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression,” the CFJ statement reads.
The case of Aasif Sultan has had a chilling effect on the journalist community in Kashmir, prompting scribes to abandon stories related to militancy and espouse self-censorship. Press freedom has since witnessed a rapid decline in J&K. Last year, India’s score on the World Press Freedom Index plummeted to 142, making it one of the world’s least free countries for press.