DIGIPUB, a platform of digital news media organisations, has heavily criticized a recent op-ed in Rising Kashmir, an English newspaper based in the valley. In a statement published on Thursday, the platform expressed concern for the “safety of a number of independent journalists in Jammu and Kashmir” who were described in the article as “terrorist sympathizers.”
The article, titled “The vultures of the single narrative feasting on misery,” was written by a certain Majeed Ahmad, whom the newspaper does not identify. His main target, according to the DIGIPUB statement, was Pulitzer Prize laureate Sanna Irshad Mattoo, who was recently prevented from flying abroad by the Union government “without citing reason or law.”
The so-called opinion piece refers to a fictitious ‘other’ group that it claims has emerged in global terrorism architecture as ‘anti-state narrative builders’ whose primary responsibility is to ‘nurture and support extremist terrorist groups’. It goes on to name several well-known Kashmiri journalists, including a photojournalist who won the prestigious Pulitzer prize this year.
Notably, it was the same author who last month wrote another article on Greater Kashmir entitled “Tag people and get them killed!”. He called Caravan a “rag magazine” and Shahid Tantray’s article on the army’s role in nationalist protests in Kashmir a “package of lies and deception”. He accused the report of naming “prominent individuals” and thus “carefully blacklisting terrorist groups stalking peace advocates in the valley.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Sanna Irshad Matto was recently attacked and banned from flying abroad for no reason mentioned by the Union government. Along with Matto, several other freed journalists have been denigrated in articles for either linking them to criminal cases, threats, or arbitrary detentions.
“Recently, they were also called as pro-Pakistan ‘vultures’ who ‘preach hate,'” the DIGIPUB tweet mentions. They also mentioned, “These are defamatory accusations that have been written and painted on the backs of those journalists.”
“DIGIPUB demands that these local media organisations pause and take a critical look at what they have done. We also demand that the State cease the illegal intimidation of independent journalists and ensure their safety and protection of their constitutional rights,” the foundation said in a statement on Friday.
have placed these journalists-already intimidated in many ways, including through criminal cases, threats, arbitrary detention, police visits to families- in greater danger than ever, in the latest instance, they have also been called pro-Pakistan ‘vulture’ who ‘preach hatred’ and “encourage targeted readers to carry out pre-determined action’,” the statement noted.
“Quite apart from the fact that these are defamatory accusations, they essentially paint targets on the backs of these journalists, a dangerous new front in the ceaseless war against what is left of the free press in Kashmir,” it added.
The op-ed’s language can be judged from the following description of Mattoo: “Born in downtown Srinagar Ms. Mattoo is a typical Anti-State, Pro-Pakistan narrative builder. She speaks the same language that finds sanction in lexicon of proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba (leT) or any other Pakistan-supported terror outfits operating in Kashmir valley. But, unlike terrorists, she is not on the run or hiding in a jungle. She lives in a society and carries more potent weapons of mass indoctrination.”
Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), said that without the slightest substantiation or evidence, the article insinuates that the journalists are similar to militants.
“We state that the purpose of such an article and its publication is mischievous, defamatory, and a clear violation of the fundamental rights of the journalists named in it. It does not follow even the basic tenets of ethics in journalism. It is shocking that a newspaper of such repute as Rising Kashmir has published it. In an already surcharged atmosphere, the duty of the newspaper is to publish facts, with due verification and with the right of reply” NWMI said in its statement.
This article is violative of the Norms of Journalistic Conduct by the Press Council of India, especially Sec 3, which is a strong caution against defamatory writing. It is also violative of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
We demand that this article is immediately taken down and deleted from the website of Rising Kashmir and an apology carried in the newspaper’s edition at the earliest.
Thursday’s Rising Kashmir article said: “Terrorists are short-lived. But that is not the case with the other group that gives terrorists some legitimacy and helps them recruit misguided youth… In the Kashmir Valley, a host of narrative builders, largely backed by international media platforms and unspeakable news portals, are thriving. These newly minted narrative builders are not baptized in a newsroom but in cafes like the one near Amar Singh College. Possibly, they have never worked on beats, desktops and hardly have any experience in the art of farming fonts. But they have other advantages that a specialized reporter will never have: luxury of time and a solid extrajudicial ecosystem. They are well trained to preach hate, lending legitimacy to Pakistan’s state-sponsored brutality against common Kashmiri.”
Naming Mattoo among others, he further states: “A well-known narrative builder is Ms. Sana Irshad Mattoo. Born in central Srinagar, Ms. Mattoo is a typical anti-state and pro-Pakistani narrative builder. She speaks the same language that she finds sanctioned in the lexicon of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba (leT) or any other Pakistan-backed terrorist group operating in the Kashmir valley. But unlike the terrorists, she is not on the run or hiding in the jungle. She lives in a society and carries more powerful weapons of mass indoctrination.”
“She (Mattoo) leads a group of similar narrative drivers and concert consumers who sell misery to aggrandize themselves. Among others are Uzma Falak, Nusrat Sidiq, Jehangir Ali, Haziq Qadri, Bilal Kuchay, Mohd Raafi, Quratul ul Al Rehbar, Kamran Yusuf, Kaisar Andrabi, Akash Hassan, etc. They all contribute to various publications in India and abroad, but the subtext is common to what Ms. Mattoo conveys through her articles of hers,” the op-ed states.
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