Journalist bodies criticize the move; IGP Kashmir says J-K Police is doing its job
SRINAGAR — Four journalists were questioned by Jammu and Kashmir Police on Thursday in connection with an investigation into a blog (kashmirfightwordpress.com), which used to publish ‘anti-India’ content.
In a statement, J-K Police said that searches were conducted at four places in Srinagar on September 8, based on evidence, with search warrant from Special Designated court under NIA Act, Srinagar.
The police, as per its statement, has taken some mobile phones, laptops and other electronic gadgets in its possession in connection with the investigation.
The four accused journalists are based in Srinagar
According to the police, the four journalists are Mir Hilal son of Ghulam Ahmed Mir and resident of Bemina Srinagar, Shah Abbas son of Abdul Khaliq Shah and resident of Yaripora Anantnag (presently at Rajbagh Srinagar), Azhar Qadri son of Farooq Ahmed and resident of Bemina Srinagar, Showkat Motta son of Abdul Samad Motta and resident of Lalbazar Srinagar.
As per the details available so far, Mir Hilal is working with TRTWorld, Shah Abbas is a freelance journalist, Azhar Qadri works with The Tribune and Showkat Motta was formerly Editor-in-Chief of The Narrator, a print magazine.
Former Editor-in-Chief of Kashmir Narrator magazine also being questioned
The Kashmir Narrator magazine was discontinued after its Assistant Editor Aasif Sultan was arrested in August 2018 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA, a stringent anti-terror law.
Sultan is accused of “harbouring known militants”. He has also been charged with murder, attempt to murder and other crimes.
Sultan’s Editor, Showkat had maintained that his colleague was arrested for his journalistic work, particularly for a story titled ‘The Rise of Burhan’, which he wrote for his magazine in July 2018.
Showkat Motta, as per J-K Police, is currently working at a wholesale shop in Srinagar.
Charges levelled by J-K Police against the journos
The police claimed that the examination of their (journalists’) gadgets revealed that they had numbers from Pakistan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. “The four journalists were also in contact with several virtual numbers,” according to the police statement.
Inspector General of Police Kashmir range, Vijay Kumar said that during investigation of FIR No. 82/2020 at Police Station Kothibagh, “credible evidence was found which links the persons (journalists) with the mastermind who is behind the blog kashmirfight.wordpress.com.”
Questioning of the journalists to continue
“All the above four persons were called for questioning and were allowed to go in the evening and have been called again tomorrow,” the IGP said, adding that the police are currently scrutinizing the seized electronic gadgets.
The investigation and questioning of the four accused journos is expected to continue as police said they will be called for questioning on Friday (September 10) as well.
Journalist bodies criticize the move
The police raid on four journalists — Hilal Mir, Shah Abbas, Azhar Qadri, and Showkat Motta – has been widely condemned by Kashmiri journalist organisations.
The searches by police and paramilitary personnel on the individual houses of these journalists, according to a joint statement released by seven Kashmiri scribe groups, are a harsh representation of how authorities in Jammu and Kashmir attack journalists.
It went on to say that journalists in Kashmir operate under stressful conditions, particularly in the previous three decades. Many colleagues, they said, have died or were injured while carrying out their professional responsibilities.
Several journalists have been called, questioned, and even arrested under contentious legislation in the previous two years, and many have been requested to divulge their sources, according to the statement.
It stated that the number of incidents of harassment against Kashmiri journalists is increasing by the day, and that no words can express the degree of stress that the media is under.
The attack on journalistic freedom in Kashmir continues, and it appears that media organisations’ condemnations in each case have fallen on deaf ears in the absence of any respite, it concluded.
IGP Kashmir says police only doing its duty
IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar said that it wasn’t an issue of harassing journalists and that police were only doing investigation and its duty.
The IGP ‘advised’ all media persons & bodies not to spread false news and asked them to desist from interfering unnecessarily into the investigation of the case by spreading ‘false narrative’.
“It is an investigation of an extremely sensitive case. After collection of solid evidences, they (journalists) would be arrested in this case,” the IGP Kashmir said.