SRINAGAR: A young journalist who is also an elected member of the Kashmir Press Club said he was summoned by the Cyber Police Station where he was slapped and abused. The incident has taken place last weekend.
Journalist, Auqib Javeed was summoned for his report The real cyberbully: Police In Kashmir Question Twitter Users that was published by portal Article 14. The report detailed the actions that the Cyber Police had taken against certain individuals for using social media. In the report, Auqib had tracked down some of those users who had gone missing from the social media as they were questioned, hectored by police and left off only after promising not to issue posts against the government and its policies.
In response to the story, Auqib was summoned. He was accompanied by two fellow journalists to the police station. Two days after his summoning, Auqib has written a firsthand account of his encounters with the cops overseeing the cyberspace in Kashmir. Titled I was Slapped, bullied by police for a story on cyberbullying, Auqib said he was slapped and abused.
According to Auqib he received a call from Cyber Police on September 18 after which he presented himself in Cyber Police Station in Srinagar.
“I heard the sounds of boots approaching, and as I turned to see who it was, a masked policeman slapped me hard on my left cheek. He did sound like a local. “Kis liye aaya hai tu (why have you come?),” he demanded. Once I recovered from the shock of the slap, I said, “SP Saab has called me.” He slapped me hard again and left,” writes Auqib Javeed. “I somehow and vaguely rationalised this assault as the cost of doing journalism in Kashmir.”
“I told SP Bhatii that the story was based on fact, but the picture and headline were not up to me but the editors,” Auqib said.
“No, this is a fake and baseless story,” the SP told him, alleges Auqib
Refuting charges, SP Cyber Kashmir Tahir Ashraf rejected the allegations that the cops abused and slapped the journalist. “There was no question of abusing nor did I slap him”.
According to SP, Auqib had committed a mistake of using the wrong photo for a story and when Cyber Police conveyed it to Auqib and he made a call to his editor and then they removed the “fake” picture from the story and the issue was resolved. “Auqib accepted the mistake,” the SP said.
Reactions in support of the journalist came from many social media users and colleagues from journalist fraternity.
Shams Irfan the Kashmiri based journalist for Washington post tweeted in support of the story: A chilling account of a fellow journalist. His “crime”, he did a story.
This is pure savagery. This is an ordeal aimed at humiliation. And it is a helpless situation. Such savagery is a badge of honour in the current conditions. Won’t b surprised if the officer is rewarded. https://t.co/QPqpTkSxyj
— Sajad Lone (@sajadlone) September 21, 2020
The Editor in Chief of the Wire tweeted to SP Tahir Ashraf: “I want to remind of J&K Police cyber cell—with 370 gone, all laws of the Indian Union apply in J&K. In no State is it legal for police to summon, slap and threaten journalists for stories they don’t like. If he did his work fairly, there’d be no need to bully reporters.”
PDP president also came in support of the “harassed” journalist. In her tweet, she described how social media users are being harassed by cyber police in Kashmir and how the government of the day does not want the parallel narrative to emerge from Kashmir.
‘I want to ask SP Cyber Cell Police under what law was I summoned, verbally abused & slapped?What did it have to do with my mother & sister?I spoke to you & quoted you extensively.If you disagreed with any of it,you could’ve sent a rebuttal’ https://t.co/z52XPcQ0Hm
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) September 21, 2020
She tweeted: “Stories of Kashmiri twitter users being harassed & forced to delete their accounts is a fact, not fiction. Also, a fact that journalists are summoned & badgered by Cyber cell to disown such stories. ‘Good journalism’ is writing fluff pieces on how ‘normalcy has blossomed in Kashmir.”
— Cyber Police Kashmir (@Cyberpolicekmr) September 21, 2020
Meanwhile, Kashmir Editors Guild has expressed anguish and pain over the reported abuse of journalist Auqib Javed by the police, managing the cyber cell in Srinagar.
Auqib, an accredited journalist, had been summoned over a story that was published by an on-line news portal in Delhi. The Guild said though the responsibility of the report published rests mostly with the publisher, the raw deal that Auqib Javed got post-summoning does not suit any decision-maker.
Auqib, in his first-hand account, published by the website has said that he was slapped and abused. He also said that on the basis of the phone call, from the cyber cell, the website editor did acknowledge certain issues with the report and rectified it right away. Even if there could have been issues with the report, the reporter and the website were morally bound to rectify it, if any.
KEG has maintained throughout that the reporters, per se, lack a direct stakeholding in a happening beyond reporting it for the society. Reporters’ role and that of the larger media is mostly that of an unbiased postman. However, it is tragic that every time, there is an issue; it is the messenger that is under attack.
Yet again, the KEG is urging the authorities to avoid making media a casualty of a situation in which media lacks a role other than record-keeping.
Kashmir media including the newspapers published in Jammu and Kashmir and the professionals reporting for diverse media within and outside the country are professional, objective and very well experienced. Making media a deliberate victim does not augur well for the larger society and does not suit the democratic polity either.
The Kashmir Press Club also condemns the behaviour of the police towards a young journalist Aquib Javeed.
The club feels this behaviour towards a journalist is highly condemnable. Hitting/slapping or abusing a Journalist in connection with a story he or she has written cannot be accepted in any society and goes against the freedom of the press, said the KPC statement.
We hope the higher-ups in the police department thoroughly inquire into this matter, it said.
In a statement, KPC also urges the LG of J&K to look into these issues of difficulties faced by the journalists while performing their professional duties in Kashmir valley.
Summons to reporters by the police for their stories has become a routine practice in Kashmir now. The club demands that an end to this practice.
“The LG’s administration should work out a mechanism so that a conducive atmosphere is available for journalists to deliver their duties without fear and reprisals,” reads the KPC statement.