Two days after the arrest of senior journalist Mohammad Abbas Kazmi on charges of involvement in the attack on the Israeli diplomat in Delhi, several eminent journalists condemned the arrest calling it an attack on the freedom of press in the country.
“This arrest of a high-profile journalist is an attack on the journalistic fraternity in the country. They (State) want to see how many of us can be cowed down by such arrests,” said veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi, who has also worked with Kazmi. Naqvi was speaking at a jam packed press conference, called by the Delhi Union of Journalists and other press bodies, raising concern over Kazmi’s arrest.
“I have personally known Kazmi for 10-15 years. He is as honourable and as honest a person I have ever worked with,” Naqvi said. He explained how Kazmi’s knowledge of various languages, which is an advantage in the profession, is now being used against him. He also recounted that he called several leading politicians including Ahmed Patel to intervene in the matter. However, none of them helped.
A journalist accredited to the Press Information Bureau, Kazmi has been in the profession for more than two decades. An expert of some repute on subjects relating to West Asia, he was associated with IRNA, an Iranian news agency on a retainership arrangement. That he made several phone calls to Iran and other countries, which could have been for purely professional reasons, is being used by the police to allege that he was in touch with his ‘handlers’.
In many of the reports that have appeared in leading dailies, attributed to ‘sources’ in the Delhi Police, it is being said that he was arrested at 8.30 pm on March 7. It is also being said that he has confessed to playing host to several Iranians at his house in the BK Dutt colony in Central Delhi. “He was arrested at 11.30 am outside the India Islamic and Cultural Centre when some plain clothes cops belonging to the special cell, who were tailing him, asked him to get off his car and come with them. His family was told only at 9.30 pm when several cops came and searched his house till 2.30 am in the morning. They asked his elder son to leave the house,” said Naqvi.
“They forced me to sign on the arrest memo in the night only,” Shauzab Kazmi, his elder son told the media. He also said that the scooty which the cops are alleging has been used by the foreign nationals was bought by his uncle who came to Delhi for treatment at AIIMS. It had been lying unused in the house since the last two years. “You can check with the neighbours that it was never used,” he said. He also explained that no Iranians had ever come and stayed in the house.
Meanwhile, The Delhi Union of Journalists submitted the memorandum to Ambika Soni, Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, demanding that Kazmi be released on bail till the investigation is complete.