Journalism is not a crime. Masrat Zahra is a professional photojournalist who has done a commendable job to tell stories accurately and honestly in her four-year-long career. The J-K police has booked her under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and IPC-505 for allegedly posting “anti-national” content on social media. This is outrageous and unwarranted.

Simultaneously, Peerzada Ashiq, who represents The Hindu in J-K and is a senior journalist, was arbitrarily summoned for questioning to Anantnag in the middle of this pandemic because the police didn’t agree with a story that he had done recently. It isn’t for the first time that authorities — civil or police — disagree with a newspaper story and want their version to be published as well. The standard procedure to follow in all such cases has been to issue a statement or a rebuttal and ask the respective media organisation to publish it as well. In this case, the police filed a case and summoned the journalist to travel fifty kilometers in the middle of this pandemic to punish him.

We believe that these two recent actions are aimed at muzzling the press in Kashmir — a process that has been going on for some time now.

In Kashmir, the media fraternity has continued to work despite assassinations, threats, and intimidation from all sides. The situation on the ground here has always been dangerous for journalists. We have faced measures like choking of our resources and blanket communication blockades. But we have never given up. We have kept on telling the stories of our people.

Today we stand in solidarity with our two colleagues and demand that the government must immediately withdraw these false charges against them. Such acts will not silence journalists in Kashmir. Our job is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” and we will keep on doing so.

Kashmir needs independent journalism…

…now, more than ever to give a voice to the voiceless. The press in Kashmir has operated under tremendous pressures of reporting from a conflict zone but since August 2019 we find ourselves in unchartered territory. The Kashmir Walla is among the oldest independent media outlets in Kashmir and has withstood successive lockdowns as well as attempts to suppress us, fighting back with authoritative ground reports based on facts.

We believe in making the powers that be accountable to their actions but to also hold the mirror to the society. We believe in covering all sides of the story and that empowerment in essence means the ability to make informed decisions. As such we have not allowed our journalism to be influenced by the pressures.

Despite the new and still unknown pressures, we are all the more committed to keep informing you of events and stories that matter. Our recent coverage of events has brought us an increased readership. However, the coronavirus pandemic and resultant economic crisis has affected our operational capabilities. We are facing an existential threat but only your support can help us withstand this and maintain our editorial independence.

We need your solidarity to keep our journalism going. Your contribution will empower us to keep you informed on stories that matter from Kashmir. Show your solidarity by joining our members community. Kashmir thanks you.