Kashmiri journalist faces terrorism charges

Kashmiri men employed by government pack wheat flour for distribution among needy people inside a temporary storage in Srinagar on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 22 April 2020

Kashmiri journalist faces terrorism charges

  • “What is my crime? I have been sharing my published materials on Facebook for quite some time and the case has really shocked me

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.”

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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.

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.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.