Two journalists booked in Kashmir for ‘objectionable post’,

Jammu and Kashmir police have booked twin journalists including a female freelance photojournalist for ‘fake news’ and objectionable posts on social media.

A female photo-journalist has been booked under unlawful activities (Prevention) Act for uploading anti-national posts with criminal intention to induce the young and to disturb public order.

“Yes, she has been booked for her Facebook posts that glorify militants. Her posts post a threat to law and order and spread misinformation,” Superintendent of Police (SP) Cyber Cell Kashmir, Tahir Ashraf told news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO)

Police sources said that a case under FIR number 10/2020 under section 13 UA(P) act and 505-IPC stands registered with the Cyber Cell of police, Kashmir. Under IPC 505, a person can be booked for two years of rigorous imprisonment.

Later, a statement issued to KNO reads that information has been received regarding a ‘fake news’ item published in the “The Hindu” newspaper by the journalist namely Pir Zada Ashiq, regarding an encounter at Shopian and subsequent developments.

“The details quoted in the news item were factually incorrect and could cause fear or alarm in the minds of public. The news published without seeking confirmation from the District authorities. In this regard, a case under FIR number 81/2020 was registered in Police Station Anantnag and the individual was called at Police Station Anantnag for questioning. The police is under duty and lawfully empowered under CrPC to call for questioning. The investigation in both cases is in progress,” Police said.

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir Vijay Kumar appealed the members of journalists, media fraternity not to publish fake or fabricated news, which has to bear on the security of the nation and which has the potential of causing social instability and can lead to law and order problem. He further appealed that any such information is clarified and confirmed before publication.

Meanwhile, many political parties have condemned the case against the female photo-journalist.

National Conference (NC) in a tweet said that the FIR filed against her must be revoked and invoking UAPA act against her is uncalled for and condemnable.

“Governments should stop treating it like one. Invoking #UAPA against Kashmiri photojournalist #MasratZahra is uncalled for, condemnable. A free press makes countries stronger & better. The FIR against her must be revoked,” NC tweeted.

Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference has called free press “lifeblood of democracy which must not be silenced.” “Is this the new state of affairs? Things weren’t too good in the old state of affairs either but attempts to silence the media were not as brazenly & shamelessly implemented. Free press is the lifeblood of democracy, must not be silenced. We express our solidarity with Masrat Zahra”, Peoples Conference said in a statement.

PC General Secretary, Imran Reza Ansari also demanded that police must drop the charges against Masrat. “Case under UA(P)A against a female journalist Masrat Zehra seems to be an overreaction from government and as such should be dropped. Constitutional guarantees can’t be undone,” he added.

PC spokesperson Adnan Ashraf Mir also condemned the invoking of UAPA against Masrat and urged the authorities to drop charges against her.

“Hounding Masrat Zahra and booking her under unlawful activities act is a brazen attempt to thought police. The principles of ‘Naya Kashmir’ seem to be against the ethos & practices of democracy & free speech. It is condemnable,” he added.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a tweet also opposed the case filed against the photojournalist.

“In any democracy, Media is the 4th pillar of strength. What democracy is India shaping when it jails and blames a young, professional, woman photojournalist for capturing the most militarized zone in the world?,” PDP tweeted.

The party further stated that harassment to the journalists is unacceptable. “Intimidating Kashmiris Journalists is certainly not the way to solve the Kashmir issue. Harassment of those who risk their lives to report is unacceptable!,” PDP wrote.

GNS adds:

Police file FIRs against 2 Journalists in Kashmir

KPC Condemns ‘harassment’, Urge HM, LG To Intervene

Srinagar, April 20 (GNS): Police have filed two FIRs against journalists—Peerzada Ashiq of well-known newspaper— The Hindu—and a female freelance photojournalist.

Police have filed an FIR 81/2020 against the prominent journalist Pirzada Ashiq regarding an encounter at Shopian and “subsequent developments”, reads a statement issued by police.

“The details quoted in the news item were factually incorrect and could cause fear or alarm in the minds of public. The news (was) published without seeking confirmation from the District authorities.”

The journalist was called at police station Anantnag for questioning. “The police is under duty and lawfully empowered under Cr.PC to call for questioning,” it said.

Earlier, Cyber police booked the freelance journalist, Masrat Zahra, under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’s Section 13 and 505 of Indian Penal Code over her online posts.

Section 13 of UA(P) Act entails jail term which may extend to 7 years and shall also be fined while any person on conviction under section 505 (public mischief) faces imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. Normally on conviction courts award punishments which shall run concurrently but they can order sentences to run separately.

In a statement issued here, the police said that the alleged posts were “uploaded with criminal intention to induce the youth and promote offences against public tranquility.”

“The Facebook user is also believed to be uploading photographs which can provoke the public to disturb law and order. The user is also uploading posts that tantamount to glorify the anti-national activities and dent the image of law enforcing agencies besides causing disaffection against the country,” the police said.

Accordingly, a case FIR (No. 10/2020) under section 13 UA (P) Act and 505-IPC dated 18-04-2020 stands registered in Cyber Police Station, Kashmir Zone, Srinagar, and investigation has been set into motion, it added.

“The investigation in both the cases is in progress,” the police added.

Meanwhile IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar (IPS) appealed the members of journalist and media fraternity to not to publish “fake/ fabricated news/ stories, which has bearing on the security of the nation and which has the potential of causing social instability and can lead to law and order problem.”

He appealed that any such information be clarified or confirmed before publication.

Meanwhile, the Kashmir Press Club has condemned the “recent cases of harassment and summons to journalists by police in Kashmir.”

In a statement issued here, KPC said that challenges and hardships have multiplied for journalists since August 05, 2019.Even in this time of Coronavirus pandemic journalists in Kashmir has been called to police stations and forced to present themselves to explain their stories, the statement said.

There are other cases where scribes have been harassed for traveling to report their stories.

Referring to latest events, KPC said that police has booked a young and promising female photo- journalist Masrat Zahra under 13 UA (P) Act and 505-IPC.

“She was summoned to Cyber Police Station, Aircargo in Srinagar on April 18, 2020. However after Kashmir Press Club and Directorate of Information intervened at the highest level, the police dropped the summon,” the statement said.

“But now it emerges the police have filed a case against her with stringent charges and stringent acts and as per the conversation with Masrat, she has been asked to come to the Police Station concerned on Tuesday, April 21, 2020,” it added.

KPC said that Masrat’s work, as a freelance photo-journalist has appeared previously in Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, Quint, and Caravaan among others.

On Sunday, KPC said that police have verbally summoned a senior journalist, Peerzada Ashiq, of The Hindu and asked him to explain the alleged factual inaccuracies in a story that was published the same day.

“While Peerzada explained his case to police in Srinagar, he was asked to travel to south Kashmir, some 40 kilometers away in the evening, and present himself before a police officer in Anantnag district,” KPC statement said, adding “He returned late in the midnight to his home in Srinagar but in the meantime his family was terrified and concerned about his safety,”

The KPC statement also referred to the arrest and beating of Kashmir Observer newspaper reporter Mushtaq Ahmad by the police in Bandipora when he was out during lockdown period related to his professional work. He was released only after securing bail from the court.

“The Kashmir Press Club reiterates that J&K government especially the police, need to understand there is a vast difference between journalism and cybercrime,” KPC said.

The journalists’ body further said that while the government has every right to rebut a story of a journalist and allow a journalist to respond, cases against journalists for their stories and work are unwarranted and outrightly illegal and draconian.

KPC said that the government department -information and public relations should be left to deal with the issues between state and the journalists and any issue should be left for them to resolve.

“It is very unfortunate that when the world is in a grip of pandemic and when we need to stand together to combat the COVID-19, police has started filing cases against journalists and harassing them,” KPC statement said.

“This is unacceptable for journalists of Kashmir who are well within their rights to seek freedom of expression and speech as guaranteed under the Constitution like other parts of the country,” it added.

KPC has sought the intervention of Home Minister Amit Shah, LG GC Murmu and Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh to issue a direction that this harassment comes to end.

“We stand in solidarity with our colleagues especially Masrat Zahra and declare that journalism is not a crime. The KPC demands that the charges be dropped against her,” the KPC statement said.

The Kashmir Press Club also seeks the cooperation and support of Indian and international journalist bodies at a time when the journalism in the region is under the constant onslaught.

The KPC will also formally write to the Press Council of India and other bodies on these cases which seem to be aimed at pressuring journalists in the valley. (GNS)