‘Shock and concern’, Editors Guild defend Kashmiri journalists

The Editors Guild of India in a statement released on Tuesday, demands Jammu and Kashmir administration to withdraw charges against Journalists. Within 48 hours three journalist have been booked by cyber police accusing them in engaging in ‘anti-national’ activities.

Masrat Zahra, an accomplished freelance photojournalist from Srinagar was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on Monday over her social media post. Many journalists came in defence for Masrat who was called in for questioning on Tuesday and later released.

Following Masrat, Peerzada Ashiq, The Hindu correspondent and Gowhar Geelani a Srinagar based author and journalist have been booked.

Editors Guild in its statement opined that ‘any recourse to such laws for merely publishing something in the mainstream or social media is a gross misuse of power”.

Read the full statement below:

The Editors Guild of India has noted with shock and concern the high-handed manner in which the law enforcement agencies in Jammu & Kashmir have used the prevailing laws to deal with two Srinagar-based journalists, Masrat Zahra, a young freelance photographer, and Peerzada Ashiq, a reporter working for The Hindu. While only an FIR has been filed in connection with a report filed by Peerzada Ashiq, the authorities in the union territory have used the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against Masrat Zahra.

Any recourse to such laws for merely publishing something in the mainstream or social media is a gross misuse of power. Its only purpose can be to strike terror into journalists. The Guild also believes that this is an indirect way of intimidating journalists in the rest of the country as well.

The journalists should be put to no harm or further harassment. If the government has any grievance against their reporting, there are other ways of dealing with such issues in the normal course. Mere social media posts of factual pictures can’t attract the toughest anti-terror laws passed for hardened terrorists. And in the case of The Hindu reporter, the correct course was to escalate the complaint to the newspaper’s editor.

The Guild demands that the Union Territory administration of Jammu & Kashmir withdraw the charges forthwith.

The Editors Guild was founded in 1978 with the twin objectives of protecting press freedom and for raising the standards of editorial leadership of newspapers and magazines.

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