CPJ Seeks India Stop Harassing Kerala Journalist for Reporting Anti-Muslim Bias in Police

Fri Dec 01 2023
icon-facebook icon-twitter icon-whatsapp

NEW YORK: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international watchdog organization, has urged Indian authorities to halt their inquiry into journalist Rejaz Sheeba Sydeek regarding his report on anti-Muslim bias in the police force, return his mobile phone, and end harassing his colleagues at Maktoob Media news website.

“Launching a police investigation into Maktoob Media journalists over a report accusing the police of anti-Muslim bias sets a perilous precedent,” Kunal Majumder, CPJ’s representative in India, said in a statement on Thursday.

“Kerala police must abandon their investigation into reporter Rejaz M Sheeba Sydeek, return his phone, and allow the press to publish news that is in the public interest,” Majumder said.

Media reports indicate that the Kerala police initiated a criminal investigation against Sydeek under Section 153 of the Penal Code, alleging “giving provocation with the intent to cause a riot.” Subsequently, they confiscated his mobile phone.

The investigation stemmed from Sydeek’s October 30 news report for Maktoob Media, where Muslim detainees, held following an explosion at a Jehovah’s Witnesses convention, accused the police of bias. A former congregation member claimed responsibility for the blast, resulting in six deaths.

On November 16 and 17, the police interrogated Sydeek, Maktoob Media’s founder and editor Aslah Kayyalakkath, and took a statement from deputy editor Shaheen Abdulla. Both Sydeek and Abdulla reported that the police seized Sydeek’s mobile phone and declined to provide a “hash value,” a unique identifier ensuring the device’s integrity.

Additionally, Sydeek alleged that the police threatened him with additional legal actions, including invoking non-bailable sections of the law. Abdulla emphasized that Maktoob Media had been specifically targeted for reporting on a crucial story holding the police accountable, describing the investigation as “arbitrary.”

Sydeek informed CPJ that he adhered to due process while filing his report, including seeking comments from the police and quoting them in his story. Despite CPJ’s email to the Kerala Director General of Police, Shaik Darvesh Saheb, there has been no response. —APP

icon-facebook icon-twitter icon-whatsapp