The Press Council of India on Wednesday formed a fact-finding committee to investigate Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti’s claims of journalists facing “unwarranted harassment” in Jammu and Kashmir.
The fact-finding panel comprises Group Editor of Dainik Bhaskar Prakash Dubey, journalist with The New Indian Express Gurbir Singh and Editor of Jan Morcha Suman Gupta.
The committee has been asked to hold discussions with the authorities and the journalists who were allegedly being harassed in the Valley, according to Greater Kashmir. The panel has to submit a report to the Press Council at the earliest.
The council has also requested authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to “extend full cooperation and assistance” to the fact-finding committee in its investigation.
On Monday, Mufti had written a letter to the Press Council of India and the Editors Guild of India, saying that journalists in Jammu and Kashmir were being harassed since August 2019 after the special status granted to the erstwhile state under Article 370 was abrogated.
“We have witnessed the manner in which fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Indian Constitution have increasingly come under attack especially in the last two years by a hostile and insecure dispensation,” she wrote.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister claimed that harassing journalists has become a norm and they were being targeted on “frivolous grounds” such as for innocuous tweets and by conducting background checks.
She had also pointed to the police raids at the homes of four journalists on September 8 and alleged that their mobile phones, laptops, ATM cards and passports of their spouses were illegally seized.
A senior police officer had told Scroll.in that the four journalists – Hilal Mir, Showkat Motta, Mohammad Shah Abbass and Azhar Qadri – were questioned about a blog called “Kashmir Fight”. Reports suggested that the blog was run from Pakistan.
In June, the United Nations had expressed concern about the “alleged arbitrary detention and intimidation” of journalists in the region.