Politics, business condemns media harassment

Srinagar

Various political, and trade organizations on Monday condemned the FIR against female photojournalist in Kashmir.

Masrat Zahra, the Kashmiri female photojournalist whose work has been published by reputed news organisations, was booked by J&K police for “uploading anti-national” posts on social media.

Reacting to the charges, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) in a tweet said: “#Journalismisnotacrime Governments should stop treating it like one.”

“Invoking #UAPA against Kashmiri photojournalist #MasratZahra is uncalled for, condemnable. A free press makes countries stronger & better. The FIR against her must be revoked, ” JKNC tweeted.

The chief spokesperson of the JKNC, Ruhullah Mehdi, also called out the government for its actions. “This ‘Beti Bachawo, Beti Padhao Govt. can’t even stand a young daughter’s expression and her liberty of work,” said Mehdi. “Once you book a journalist and a daughter under PSA [later corrected as UAPA], you should conclude in your own (if there is any) conscience that you are both dictatorial and coward.”

Another NC leader, Imran Nabi Dar, said, “Invoking draconian #UAPA against a young Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra is worrisome.”

He added that the freedom of expression was never so curtailed in Kashmir. “Journalists are the easiest, most frequent targets of such laws invoked arbitrarily. Show some sense and revoke the FIR. In solidarity.”

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti”a daughter Iltija Mufti said intimidating and harassing journalists in Jammu and Kashmir to stifle reportage has become the norm.

“Masarat Zahra, a photojournalist was booked under draconian UAPA for allegedly ”uploading anti national posts”. In J&K using VPNs or social media is now seen as a threat to public order,” Iltija tweeted from her mother’s handle.

In another tweet, she said, “Predominantly media in the country is largely pliable. The ones that have any credibility left are hounded & punished. It”s worse for journalists from J&K who report at the cost of their lives. TOI reporter Samiya Latief was bullied & trolled on twitter.”

“A correspondent working for The Hindu was interrogated for hours on an article that didn’t fit into the narrative of the establishment. Any dissent/ counter opinion has been outlawed & criminalised. Filing FIRs & invoking stringent laws meant for criminals is a blot on democracy,” she tweeted.

Terming FIR against female Journalist Masrat Zehra a futile attempt at thought policing People’s Democratic Party in a statement issued today demanded immediate rescinding of FIR against her.

With this move a very low threshold bar has been set for tolerating contrarian views, party spokesperson Najmu Saqib said and added such arbitrary application of laws wipes the shine off the veneer of democracy.

“A systematic pattern of assault on freedom of expression is underway in J&K. Anyone not toeing the statist line is reportedly harassed, intimated and a vilification campaign unleashed’” party spokesperson said.

The fraternity operates in a very hostile terrain yet valiantly continues to deliver its professional and moral obligations, Saqib said and added “Journalists in Kashmir work in war like conditions to keep the public informed sometimes even at the cost of their lives,”.

“Slapping UAPA, an anti terrorism law against Masrat Zahra a female journalist for merely representing a contrarian view is a manifestation of the urge to control the tone & tempo of the conversation in & on Kashmir,” PDP spokesperson

Noting that a pattern of intimidation is ongoing party spokesperson said “ It has also come to our attention that correspondents of Outlook, The Hindu and The Print were also harassed for merely discharging there professional duties,”

PDP spokesperson also requested authorities to desist & immediately cease such harassment of the members of journalism fraternity.

Senior Peoples Conference leader Imran Reza Ansari demanded the police shall drop the charges against Zahra. “Case under UA(P)A against a female journalist Masrat Zehra seems to be an over reaction from government and as such should be dropped,” he said. “Constitutional guarantees can’t be undone.”

“Is this the new state of affairs? Things weren’t too good in the old state of affairs either but attempts to silence the media were not as brazenly & shamelessly implemented. Free press is lifeblood of democracy, must not be silenced. We express our solidarity with @Masratzahra,” JKPC tweeted.

In a statement, a spokesperson of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry also condemned the harrassment of journalists in Kashmir and expressed solidarity with the fraternity.

“The filing of a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against 26 year old photojournalist Masrat Zahra for uploading posts regarding her previously published works is a direct interference in the independence of the media. Masrat Zahra is an acclaimed young journalist whose works have featured in leading international newspapers and channels,” said KCCI spokesman.

Earlier also, there have been several instances of journalists being summoned to Police Stations and questioned on flimsy grounds, he said.

“Freedom of expression is a universal human right and moreso when such freedom is critical one’s professional duties. The local press needs the freedom to circulate opinions without any unwarranted censorship by the Government,” he added.

“The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry appeals for the immediate withdrawal of the case filed against Masrat Zahra and urges the Government to work towards creating an environment which encourages a free exchange of thoughts, views and opinions which is the indispensable quality of a democracy,” KCCI statement said.

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