Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir released a prominent journalist on bail Thursday, nearly two years after he was arrested on charges of "glorifying terrorism" in the disputed territory and "spreading fake news".
Fahad Shah, a correspondent for US newspaper Christian Science Monitor and editor of The Kashmir Walla news portal, was arrested in February 2022 after police officers questioned him repeatedly for his reporting.
But a court granted him bail last week, agreeing with an earlier ruling that Shah's preventative detention was untenable.
"It's good to be back among my family and friends who stood by me. It was a difficult and traumatic period," Shah told AFP from his home in the region's main city Srinagar.
"It will be some time before I can feel normal again."
Shah was charged under various sections of a stringent anti-terrorism law amid a press crackdown that had intensified in the years since 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government annulled the region's partial constitutional autonomy and imposed direct rule.
Since then, many journalists based in the region have also been increasingly subject to harassment, arrests, raids and prosecution on "terrorism"-related charges.
Critics and many residents say the constitutional changes preceded a drastic curtailment of civil liberties and press freedom in the restive region.
Police also accused Shah of inciting unrest through social media posts, and denting the image of law enforcement agencies.
In August, when Shah was in prison, the Indian government ordered The Kashmir Walla website be taken down.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since both countries were granted independence from British rule in 1947, and both claim the Himalayan former kingdom in full.
More than half a million Indian soldiers are deployed in the territory, battling a running insurgency from rebel groups demanding independence or Kashmir's merger with Pakistan.
The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians.