Ground Report | New Delhi: Reporting truth being criminalised in J&K; Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Monday expressed concern over the alleged harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir and said reporting of truth is being made a crime with every passing day.
In a letter to the Press Council of India and the Editors Guild of India, Mufti pointed to the police raids on the homes of four journalists on 8 September and alleged that their mobile phones, laptops, ATM cards, and their spouse’s passports were illegal.
harassment of journalists’ fraternity in Kashmir
It reads that in a democratic set up, a free and independent press is crucial and essential for government institutions to function in a transparent manner with due accountability towards their citizens. “We have witnessed the manner in which fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Indian constitution have increasingly come under attack especially in the last two years by a hostile & insecure dispensation.”
Highlighting the harassment of journalists’ fraternity in Kashmir, Mehbooba in the letter said that unwarranted harassment of journalists has become a norm and this policy has been implemented by raiding their homes, summoning and interrogating them on frivolous grounds such as innocuous tweets, conducting background checks of journalists and their family members by CID, withdrawal of benefits including accommodation of some senior journalists, seizure of mobile phones, laptops, confiscating passports, ATM cards, etc.
In the past two years, several journalists have been summoned, detained, or booked by the police over various charges. In a recent report, two journalists were detained at the airport in Delhi, disallowing them from flying abroad.
Reporting truth being criminalised in J&K
Besides the letter throws light upon the fact that 23 journalists have been put on ECL. “Even students who bag scholarships in prestigious colleges in top universities of world not allowed to go study there. Recently a student was deboarded from a plane, arrested and subsequently released.”
It reads that a sizeable number of journalists are either threatened or charged with sections under UAPA or sedition law, simply because their reportage on J&K does not cater to the PR stunts of the ruling dispensation. “Reporting truth to power is being criminalised with every passing day.”
Mehbooba Mufti said that the journalists working and reporting in J&K are amongst “the bravest in the world especially at a time when a large section of the Indian media has become a propaganda extension of the Central Government.
truth doesn’t become a casualty
“The hostile environment that they operate in with frequent curfews, encounters, hartals and other adverse security situations has not weakened their determination to ensure that truth doesn’t become a casualty. There have always been issues and disagreements between the State and media but never before has the freedom of expression been virtually guillotined in any part of the country as it has been done in J&K for the past three years.”
It reads that the letter has been attached with a copy of a questionnaire that has been served to the journalists who are being currently investigated by the State.
She said that none of the established monitoring forums and courts has taken any interest or interfered with such widely reported incidents. Mufti urged the Press Council of India and the Editors Guild, “It therefore becomes my obligation to urge you to send a fact-finding team to J&K to independently verify these claims and take remedial action.”