Journalism being criminalized in J&K, says Mehbooba Mufti

Srinagar, September 27 (KMS): In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the President of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mehbooba Mufti, on Monday wrote to the Press Council of India and Editors Guild of India – the two top journalism bodies in the country, pointing out intimidation, snooping and harassment of journalists in the territory.

Mehbooba Mufti in the letter addressed to the Secretary of the Press Council of India, writes that raids were conducted by police at homes of several journalists in Kashmir earlier this month.

“Personal items such as electronic gadgets, including phones and laptops, were illegally seized along with ATM cards and passports of their spouses. This comes close on the heels of the harrowing experiences that the journalist community in Kashmir has been subject to post abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government,” she added.

Mehbooba Mufti also pointed out that in a democratic set-up, a free and independent press is crucial and essential for government institutions to function in a transparent manner with due accountability towards its citizens. “We have witnessed the manner in which fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Indian Constitution have increasingly come under attack, especially in the last two years, by a hostile & insecure dispensation.”

Mufti wrote, “Unwarranted harassment of journalists has become a norm and this policy has been implemented by raiding their homes, summoning and interrogating them on frivolous grounds such as innocuous tweets, conducting background checks of journalists and their family members by CID, withdrawal of benefits including accommodation of some senior journalists, seizure of mobile phones, laptops, confiscating passports, ATM cards etc.”

The letter pointed out that 23 journalists have been put on Exit control list (ECL). Even students who bag scholarships in prestigious colleges in top universities of the world are not allowed study there.

In addition to this, Mufti writes, “a sizeable number of journalists are either threatened or charged with sections under draconian laws, simply because their reportage on J&K does not cater to the PR stunts of the ruling dispensation. Reporting truth to power is being criminalised with every passing day.”

Mufti has asked the Press Council of India would take a suo moto note of these widely reported incidents but it seems that no established watchdog forum, including the Courts, has taken any interest in the painful circumstances created in J-K, not to speak of any interventions.