By harassing journalists, govt exposing its own failures: KWJA

Srinagar: The Kashmir Working Journalist Association (KWJA) has strongly condemned the police’s use of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against a young woman photojournalist Masrat Zehra for merely uploading photographs on social media.
“KWJA is aghast at the new low police have stooped to in the campaign against journalists and free speech in Kashmir and in the bid to be the final arbiter of what goes into the press,” the KWJA said in a strongly worded statement.
“KWJA condemns the police highhandedness and calls upon the government to stop muzzling the press, free speech, and voices of dissent in Kashmir, and promote a culture of accountability rather than one of submission.
It is the duty of journalists to report on all aspects of the society including conflict and dissent. By harassing journalists through intimidation, police beatings, cooked up cases, and other forms of harassment, the government is only exposing its failures in its duties towards people,” the KWJA said in its statement.
“Government overzealousness in acting against journalists is a poor reflection on its performance,” the KWJA added. “Therefore we call upon the government and police to let better sense prevail and withdraw the charges against Masrat and let her continue her work in a professional manner.”
The KWJA also condemned the harassment of senior journalist Peerzada Ashiq, who was summoned by police first at Srinagar and then to Anantnag for a news report he had written.
“If the government had any objections to the report or wanted to clarify its stance, it could have done through a statement or a rebuttal, which would have been carried by the paper. But, as usual, the government chose a route of undue harassment,” the KWJA said.
“At a time when the world is fighting COVID-19 pandemic, it is unfortunate that government in Jammu and Kashmir is busy subjecting journalists to harassment and mental torture,” it added.
“The ugly pattern of summoning journalists to police stations, intimidating them with the first information reports (FIRs) and stopping them from travel has only intensified since August last year. Senior journalist and author Gowhar Geelani was stopped from travelling to Germany to join work at Deutsche Welle. Peerzada Ashiq, Naseer Ganai, Basharat Masood, Hakeem Irfan and many others have been summoned by the police’s counter-insurgency grid to explain their news reportage,” the KWJA mentioned.
“KWJA can only hope that the muzzling of press and harassment of journalists in Kashmir, which took a new zeal since August 4 last year, is put to a stop somewhere, at least for the sake of government’s reputation,” the journalists’ body said.

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