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Editors Guild of India calls out police for harassing Kashmiri journalists

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on April 22, 2020

The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday expressed concern over the actions taken against two Kashmiri journalists -- freelance photographer Masrat Zahra and The Hindu reporter Peerzada Ashiq-- based out of Srinagar by the law enforcement agencies. The guild also asked the police to not harass journalists in the future, as per media reports.

“While only an FIR [first information report] has been filed in connection with a report filed by Peerzada Ashiq, the authorities in the union territory have used the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against Masrat Zahra,” the guild said. “Any recourse to such laws for merely publishing something in the mainstream or social media is a gross misuse of power. Its only purpose can be to strike terror into journalists.”

The guild reprimanded the police for using the law laid for terrorists against journalists “mere social media posts of factual pictures.” The guild added that the right approach would have been to contact the newspaper editor before taking such a severe step.

“The Guild demands that the Union Territory administration of Jammu & Kashmir withdraw the charges forthwith,” the statement concluded.

On April 18, Masrat Zahra was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for uploading posts that glorified “anti-national activities on social media platforms.” Whereas in Ashiq’s case, an FIR was lodged against him alleging that he misreported on the permission granted to deceased militants’ families in Baramulla to travel to collect the bodies, though it was later rescinded.

According to the amended UAPA, the government can probe people whom it deems as a threat to national security and empowers officers of the National Investigation Agency to look into the cases. A person charged under the act can be jailed up to seven years.

On Tuesday, senior Kashmiri journalist and commentator Gowhar Geelani was also booked by the Cyber Police Station Kashmir Zone. The police claimed that he was indulged in unlawful activities through social media that were “prejudicial to the national integrity, sovereignty and security of India”. The police alleged that Geelani had been glorifying terrorism in the Kashmir Valley through his posts.

Published on April 22, 2020

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