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Mehbooba Mufti urges Press Council to probe harassment of J&K journalists

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Srinagar, Sep 27, 2021- PDP President and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday urged the Press Council of India to probe “intimidation, snooping and harassment” of journalists in the Union Territory.

In a letter to the Council’s Secretary, she wrote: “I am sure you are aware 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 & passports of their spouses. This comes close on the heels of the harrowing experiences that the journalist community in Jammu and Kashmir has been subject to post the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government.”

“In a democratic set up, a free & independent press is crucial & 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 & expression enshrined in the Indian Constitution have increasingly come under attack especially in the last two years by a hostile & insecure dispensation.”

Mehbooba Mufti said people at large, and media especially, in J&K has been at the receiving end of this policy.

“Unwarranted harassment of journalists has become a norm & this policy has been implemented by raiding their homes, summoning & 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 reads.

“Reportedly 23 journalists have been put on ECL (Exit control list). Even students who bag scholarships in prestigious colleges in top universities of world not allowed to go study there. Recently a student was deboarded from a plane, arrested and subsequently released.

“In addition to this, a sizeable number of journalists are either threatened or charged with sections under UAPA or sedition law, 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.”

“I strongly believe that the journalists working and reporting in J&K are amongst the bravest in the world, especially at a time when a large section of the Indian media has become a propaganda extension of the Central Government. The hostile environment that they operate in with frequent curfews, encounters, hartals and other adverse security situations has not weakened their determination to ensure that truth doesn’t become a casualty. There have always been issues and disagreements between the State and media but never before has the freedom of expression been virtually guillotined in any part of the country as it has been done in J&K for the past three years.”

Mehbboba Mufti also enclosed copy of a questionnaire that, she said, has been served to the journalists who are being currently investigated by the state. (Agency)

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