Srinagar- The Kashmir Press Club on Wednesday expressed grave concern over a series of FIR registered against journalists working in Kashmir Valley and demanded their withdrawal.
“The Kashmir Press Club (KPC) yet again notes with grave concern the series of FIRs that have been filed against journalists in the valley,” the journalist body said in a statement.
It said in the latest instance, a case has been registered against journalist and author Gowhar Geelani. This is the third such FIR against media persons from the valley in the last few days.
“Many scribes in the valley have expressed anguish over these developments. The KPC stands in solidarity with all members of the fraternity,” the statement said.
An FIR was registered against senior journalist Peerzada Ashiq, working for The Hindu, over a story he had filed recently. Ashiq was summoned by the police on Sunday in two different districts of Kashmir within a span of six hours to explain his position regarding one of his news reports.
In the second case, freelance photographer Masrat Zahra was booked for uploading anti-national’ content on social media.
In the third instance, the Cyber Police Station in Kashmir Zone on Tuesday registered a case and started investigation into allegations that journalist Gowhar Geelani was indulging in unlawful activities through social media posts.
“While condemning and seeking withdrawal of the cases against Peerzada Ashiq and Masrat Zahra, we also urge the authorities to withdraw the case against Gowhar Geelani, the press body said.
The Kashmir Press Club said it will send a representation to the Press Club of India (PCI) detailing these issues and other grievances related to difficulties faced by media in their functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope the media fraternity which is working amid huge challenges get a conducive atmosphere to deliver their day-to-day duties,” the statement added.
Meanwhile the Kashmir Working Journalists Association (KWJA) issued a statement vowing that journalists in Kashmir won’t succumb to “tactics of thought policing and intimidation”.
“Journalists in Kashmir have always worked under perilous conditions, holding up values of press freedom in the face of dangers to life and liberty”, the statement said, adding that in the last three days, Police has filed FIRs against three journalists, “in a spree that seems to be aimed at throttling their voice with a new zeal.”
“After booking journalists Peerzada Ashiq and Masrat Zahra for actually doing their jobs, police has now filed an FIR against journalist Gowhar Geelani for expressing his opinions on social media”, it said.
“Besides being a well-known journalist with a large social media following, Gowhar Geelani is the author of book Kashmir- Rage and Reason. He is a brave journalist and commentator who likes to call a spade a spade”.
“Although the details of the FIR are not known yet – given the aversion of authorities in Kashmir to transparency – what can so far be deduced is that Gowhar is being targeted for speaking his mind out without fear or prejudice”, KWJA said.
“We would like to remind them (authorities) that the efforts to silence the press, and by extension of the populace, will only prove counterproductive. Journalists will not to succumb to the tactics and will continue to call hold the authorities accountable”. KWJA statement read.
IWPC slams action against 3 journalists in J&K
The Indian Women’s Press Corps on Wednesday expressed shock over three journalists being booked by law enforcement authorities in Jammu and Kashmir and alleged that the action was aimed at “striking fear in the hearts of journalists”.
The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) has been used against freelance photographer Masarat Zahra, a fellow woman journalist. The act was meant to deal with hardened terrorists, the IWPC said in a statement.
The IWPC said it is shocked at the manner in which law enforcement authorities in Jammu and Kashmir, over the last few days, have invoked laws to clamp down on freedom of speech and expression that violate fundamental rights laid down in the Constitution.
“The intentions of the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir is to strike fear in the hearts of journalists who are simply doing their job. This is a clear message that the Union Territory will not tolerate dissent,” the IWPC said.
“Masarat Zahra had only posted some pictures on social media. Peerzada Ashiq had just filed a report, while Gowhar Geelani’s commentary attracted the displeasure of the government,” it said.
The IWPC said it hopes that these strictures are withdrawn at the earliest.
The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday had also expressed concern over the “high-handed manner” in which the law enforcement agencies in Jammu and Kashmir used prevailing laws to deal with Zahra and Ashiq.
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