The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its partner the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) in expressing deep concern at the arrest of veteran Indian freelance journalist Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi on charges of involvement in a February 13 bomb attack on a vehicle belonging to the Israeli diplomatic mission in Delhi.
Kazmi, 50, was arrested on the afternoon of March 7 in the Indian capital and remanded to police custody for twenty days.
Police in Delhi are reported to be working on the lead that the attack on the diplomatic vehicle may have been planned by a terror group based in a West Asian country. Kazmi allegedly served as an accessory in the plot, surveying the route taken by the diplomatic vehicle and alerting the planters of the bomb to its movements on the day of the attack.
The IFJ is informed that Kazmi is a journalist in good standing, with a regular column in an Urdu-language weekly published from Delhi and a retainer as an Urdu language newscaster with India’s state-owned television channel, Doordarshan.
He has also completed an internship with one of India’s main news agencies, the United News of India, and is widely read and respected in Urdu language circles. Fluent in Persian and Arabic, Kazmi has contributed to several documentary productions aired over Indian TV channels, in which interpretation from these languages has been necessary.
Given his linguistic skills, Kazmi has also been deployed by Indian news organisations in covering regional affairs in the Arab and Islamic region.
Delhi Police have cited Kazmi’s phone records, which reveal a number of recent calls to Iran and Syria, as part of the grounds on which he has been arrested. The IFJ understands that these calls were purely of a professional nature, in line with his work assignments.
Kazmi has appeared on talk shows on Indian news channels over recent weeks and argued a forceful case against the ongoing war rhetoric against Iran for its supposed violations of international law.
He also recently travelled to Syria on an invitation from the Syrian government, to cover the referendum on President Bashar Al-Assad’s proposals for political reform.
The DUJ held an emergency meeting on March 7, calling for Kazmi’s immediate release on bail and decrying the targeting of journalists for their “professional work, sources and connections”.
An editor of an Urdu language daily newspaper, the Sahafat, was quoted describing the arrest of Kazmi as an accessory to terrorism as completely “irresponsible”. Some senior journalists have also suggested that Kazmi’s ethnicity may have been a factor in the decision by authorities to lay charges against him.
“With all respect for the legal process in India, the IFJ is concerned that Kazmi may have been identified for arrest based on his political views, rather than solid evidence”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
“All reports available so far indicate that Kazmi is a sound professional who did not deviate from his commitment to a journalistic code of ethics, while not hesitating to express his well-considered views when required.
We call on the authorities in Delhi to uphold the presumption of innocence, and provide a full explanation of the grounds on which Kazmi has been arrested and ensure that he is given all opportunities to clear his name”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
(The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries)