Mehbooba Urges PCI to Send Fact Finding Team to Kashmir

Mehbooba Mufti | KO File Photo

Srinagar: Urging Press Council of India (PCI) to send a fact finding team to Kashmir valley to verify alleged harassment of media persons by the government, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said raids were conducted by police on several journalists and their personnel items were seized.

In a letter to chairman PCI, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti said “ I am sure you are aware that raids were conducted by police at homes of several journalists in Kashmir earlier this month. Personal items such as electronic gadgets, including phones and laptops, were illegally seized along with ATM cards and passports of their spouses”.

This, she said, comes close on the heels of harrowing experiences that the journalist community in J&K have been subject to post the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian Government on August 5, 2019.

“In a democratic set up, a free and independent press is crucial and essential for the government institutions to function in a transparent manner with due accountability towards its citizens. 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”, he alleged.

Mehbooba further said “ People at large and the media, especially in J&K, has been at the receiving end of this policy. Unwarranted harassment of journalists has become a norm and this policy has been implemented by raiding their houses, summoning and interrogating them on frivolous grounds such as innocuous tweets, conducting background checks of journalists and their family members by CID, withdrawal of benefits, including accommodation of some senior journalists, seizure of mobile phones, laptops, passports, ATM cards”
Reportedly 23 journalists have been put on the exit control list (ECL), she alleged.” Even students who bag scholarships in prestigious universities of the world are not allowed to go and study there. Recently a student was de-boarded from a plane, arrested and subsequently released. In addition to this, a sizable number of journalists are either threatened or charged with sections under UPSA or sedation law, simply because their reporting on J&K doesn’t cater to the PR stunts of the ruling dispensation. Reporting truth is being criminalized with every passing day”, she alleged in the letter.

“I strongly believe that journalists working and reporting in J&K are among the bravest in the world, especially at a time when a large section of the Indian media has become a propaganda extension of the central government. The hostile environment that they operate in with frequent curfew, encounters, hartals and other adverse security situations has not weakened their determination to ensure truth does not become a casualty. There have always been issues and disagreements between state and media but never before has the freedom of expression been virtually guillotined in any part of the country as it has been done in J&K for the last three years.

She said questionnaires have been served to the journalists who are currently being investigated by the state. You will note that apart from asking very irrelevant and personal questions it is based on the assumption that their personal ties and loyalties lie with an anti national network.

“Unfortunately this is a diabolical method to perpetuate the communal mindset throughout the country in order to gain political mileage and relevance by demeaning and marginalizing an entire community”, the letter said.

She further said “One had hoped that the press council of India would take a suo moto note of these widely reported incidents but it seems that no established watchdog form, including the courts, has taken any interest in the painful circumstances created in the J&K not to speak of any intervention. It therefore becomes incumbent upon me to urge you to send a fact finding team to J&K to independently verify these claims and take remedial action”.

 

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