PATNA, INDIA: A young Kashmiri photojournalist was on Tuesday facing terrorism charges after being booked by police for engaging in “antinational activities” on social media.
Law enforcement officers in Indian-administered Kashmir booked 26-year-old Masrat Zahra under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which allows authorities to designate individuals as terrorists.
The Srinagar-based journalist told Arab News: “What is my crime? I have been sharing my published materials on Facebook for quite some time and the case has really shocked me.
“What has surprised me is that police have not addressed me as a journalist but as a Facebook user,” said Zahra, whose work has appeared in many international publications.
A statement issued by Jammu and Kashmir cyber police on Saturday said that officers had received “information through reliable sources that one Facebook user, namely Masrat Zahra, is uploading antinational posts with criminal intention to induce the youth and to promote offenses against public tranquility.”
It added that “the Facebook user is also believed to be uploading photographs which can provoke the public to disturb law and order” and “dent the image of law enforcing agencies.”
On Monday, Zahra was booked under the UAPA.
Her recent work portrayed a woman who had been having panic attacks after claiming that her husband had been killed by the Indian army.
Also, on Monday, Srinagar police booked another Kashmiri journalist, Peerzada Ashiq, who works for prominent national daily The Hindu, on charges that one of his recent stories was “factually incorrect and could cause fear or alarm in the minds of the public.”
Titled “Families of slain militants given curfew pass,” Ashiq’s report investigated how amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, authorities had issued special passes to the families of slain militants from south Kashmir’s Shopian district to visit their graves in another district, some 110 kilometers away.
“This is an attempt to make the atmosphere difficult for journalists in Kashmir,” Shuja-ul-Haq, president of Kashmir Press Club, told Arab News.
“We are going through a difficult time. Despite assurances from the authorities, cases are being filed against journalists. The media fraternity is in shock in the valley,” he said.
Srinagar-based journalist, Gowhar Gilani, said: “It’s traumatic what is happening. As journalists we feel we are on a ventilator and need support to survive. A democracy cannot run without vibrant political activities and independent media.”
One senior Kashmiri journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, said that cases against journalists were not new in Kashmir, but it was new for them to be brought on terrorism charges.
“In any other part of the world there would be a massive outcry if journalists were booked so blatantly, but in Kashmir everything is justified under the garb of protecting national security,” he said.