The Kashmir Press Club on Wednesday expressed concern over the registration of a first information report against journalists in the Valley and sought immediate withdrawal of the cases to allow the media to function in a conducive atmosphere.
The cyber cell of the Kashmir Police on Tuesday issued a statement that it had filed a case against independent journalist and author Gowhar Geelani for “unlawful activities” on social media, threatening national security and sovereignty, “glorifying terrorism”, “causing disaffection against the country”. It also claimed to have received complaints accusing Geelani of threat and intimidation.
“His is the third such FIR in a row in last few days,” the press club said in a statement. “Many scribes in the valley have expressed anguish over these developments. The KPC stands in solidarity with all the members of the fraternity.”
The press club condemned the action against the journalists and sought withdrawal of the FIRs against Peerzada Ashiq, Masrat Zahra and against Gowhar Geelani. “As already conveyed, the club on behalf of the fraternity will write a representation to the Press Club of India detailing these issues and other grievances related to difficulties faced by media in their functioning during this pandemic,” the statement said.
The organisation also added that a detailed memorandum will be sent to the highest authorities, including Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu. “We hope the media fraternity which is working amid huge challenges should get a conducive atmosphere to deliver their day-to-day duties,” the statement added.
On April 18, freelance photojournalist Masrat Zahra was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a law normally used against those allegedly involved in acts of terror. The police said that Zahra, a freelance photojournalist who reports mostly about women and children in conflict, uploaded photographs that could “provoke the public to disturb law and order”.
The amended UAPA allows the government to proscribe individuals as terrorists and empowers more officers of the National Investigation Agency to probe cases. A person charged under the Act can be jailed for up to seven years.
Over the same weekend, the police filed an FIR against an alleged “fake news item” about a gunfight between police and militants in South Kashmir and subsequent developments published in the Hindu. Details of the report were “factually incorrect”, could “cause fear or alarm” and had not been confirmed with district authorities. What law was violated by the report has not been revealed.
The reporter, Peerzada Ashiq, told the Committee to Protect Journalist that he had records to show he had reached out to the authorities for comment.