Kashmir’s Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar on Thursday said that the four journalists whose homes were raided on Wednesday will be arrested “after collection of solid evidences”, reported Global News Service.
The four journalists – Hilal Mir, Showkat Motta, Mohammad Shah Abbass and Azhar Qadri – were called to the police station for questioning on Wednesday. They were summoned again on Thursday.
A senior police official told Scroll.in on Wednesday that they were questioned in a case about a blog called “Kashmir Fight”. Reports suggest that the blog is run from Pakistan.
“During investigation of FIR 82/2020 Police Station Kothibagh, credible evidence was found which links the four persons (journalist) with the mastermind who is behind the blog firstname.lastname@example.org,” said Kumar.
On Thursday, Kumar said that mobile phones, laptops and other gadgets were seized during the raids, and that they were scrutinising the devices.
“So far various numbers of Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi have been found, besides they are also found to have been in contact of various virtual numbers,” a police statement said.
Mir is a former editor of the newspaper Greater Kashmir and also wrote frequently for the Turkish television network TRT.
Abbass wrote for Greater Kashmir’s Urdu sister-publication Kashmir Uzma as well as Spanish news agency EFE. Qadri was associated with The Kashmir Walla.
Matta was the editor of Kashmir Narrator, a magazine that has shut down.
Aasif Sultan, a journalist who also worked with the magazine, has been in jail since August 2018. The police have accused him of working for the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen.
Kumar on Thursday advised the media to not “spread false news” and “interfere unnecessarily in investigation of case by spreading false narrative”. The senior police officer described the inquiry as “extremely sensitive”.
He added that this was not an attempt to harass the journalists.
The posts in “Kashmir Fight” had targeted and vilified Bukhari and other journalists, politicians and activists in the Valley who were engaged in Track II diplomacy, or discussions that take place outside the ambit of the official dialogue.
A few days ago, the blog had published another post, this time targeting the local Kashmiri press and prominent editors.
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Journalists face more harassment post August 2019
Journalists in Jammu and Kashmir have reportedly faced more threats and harassment after the Centre scrapped the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in 2019.
In June this year, the United Nations had expressed concern about the “alleged arbitrary detention and intimidation” of journalists in the region.
The UN statement had cited the examples of The Kashmir Walla Editor-in-Chief Fahad Shah, independent journalists Auqib Javeed and Sajar Gul, and The Kashmiriyat editor Qazi Shibli.
Shah had reportedly been detained without a warrant by the police in Srinagar in 2017, the UN said in the document. “Shah was allegedly interrogated for eight hours by a group of officers who inquired about his journalistic work and his travels,” it added.
In January, a first information report had been filed against The Kashmir Walla for an article about Indian Army personnel allegedly forcing a school in Shopian district to hold a Republic Day event.
Meanwhile, Javeed in September 2020 had allegedly been threatened and slapped by the police for his report about some officials intimidating Twitter users.
Shibli had been detained in Anantnag in 2019 for a story about the deployment of security forces in Kashmir, the UN said.
The UN also mentioned the sealing of the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times, a leading English daily of the Valley in 2020. The world body also sought a reply from the Indian government about the measures taken to ensure that journalists could work in a safe environment.