While Zahra, an independent photojournalist, has been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for social media posts deemed “anti-national”, Ashiq, a veteran reporter working with The Hindu has been booked for a news item that was eventually proved inaccurate.
The Editors Guild has described the police’s decision to invoke the UAPA, an anti-terrorism law, against Zahra as a “gross misuse of power”, saying it is “an indirect way of intimidating journalists in the rest of the country as well”. The grievance against Ashiq, it added, could have been taken up with his editor.
Read the full Editors Guild of India 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.”