The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned the J&K police act for searching residences of four journalists in Srinagar and questioning them at the police station, on alleged grounds of their involvement with ‘Kashmirfight Blog’.
Kashmirfight Blog has already been blocked by the Union Ministry of Electronics and IT.
The journalists’ union demanded that such intimidation of media in the Valley, as well as blocking of sites, be halted so that journalists can do their work without fear of reprisal.
According to a press note, the police said Mir Hilal, a resident of Bemina, a journalist at TRTworld; Md Shah Abbas, a freelance journalist; Azhar Qadri, a journalist at The Tribune and Showkat Motta, editor-in-chief of The Narrator (currently working at a wholesale shop) were called in for questioning on Wednesday and Thursday.
They were called at Kothibagh, Srinagar.
Their homes were searched and cell phones, laptops and other electronic gadgets were seized.
The police claimed “credible evidence has been found” linking them to “the mastermind who is behind the blog firstname.lastname@example.org”.
This was after the IGP Vijay Kumar is reported as having said that the police had been observing journalists for ‘spreading fake news’.
He is quoted as denying it was an issue of harassing journalists and warned those involved would be arrested in this case as and when the evidences are collected.
Reports suggest the police in July had “searched several locations in Poonch, Srinagar and Pulwama and arrested individuals, who they claimed were working for the blog.
The police said the blog “had designed a modus operandi wherein the name of the victim was first published, he was profiled giving detailed justification as to how and why he is a legitimate target for terrorists” and subsequently he is killed by the terrorists.
In a statement, IJU president Geetartha Pathak and secretary-general and vice president of International Federation of Journalists Sabina Inderjit said while the IGP claims the due process of law is being followed while investigating “a sensitive case”, it didn’t seem the case as questioning journalists in police station seems to have become the rule rather than an exception.
The leadership demanded that the intimidation through a claim that they were ‘spreading fake news’ was being misused.
The Union urged the journalists’ organisations in the Valley to take up press freedom issues vociferously with the Press Council of India, as soon as it is reconstituted.