Journalist booked for rioting after story in Kashmir Walla on ‘demolition drive’

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A north Kashmir-based reporter has been booked for ‘rioting, trespassing, and assault’ after reporting a story on an alleged demolition drive in Bandipora district for The Kashmir Walla.

Sajad Gul was booked under sections 147, 447, and 353 of the Indian Penal Code by the police after a complaint filed by the concerned Tehsildar of the area.

Gul said that despite repeated requests he has not been provided a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) by the police.

On 9 February, The Kashmir Walla published a story by the freelance reporter from Bandipora on demolition drives carried out by district officials in north Kashmir’s Hajin.

In the story, the residents of Shahgund village in Hajin area of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district had alleged that they were being “harassed and threatened” by the Tehsildar Hajin Ghulam Mohammad Bhat over demolition of houses.

The Tehsildar has been harassing him, he alleged and said that he is being falsely implicated by the authorities for doing a story about a demolition drive in a village recently.

Days after being booked, the freelance reporter has now shot a letter to Kashmir Press Club (KPC) stating that he stands by the story. In the letter, Gul also said that the concerned Tehsildar through police is trying to implicate him in false and fabricated charges of “stone-pelting “.

Meanwhile, the KPC has expressed deep concern over filing of an FIR against a “young reporter” in Bandipora’s Hajin area.

“I want to bring it to your kind notice that Tehsildar Hajin Ghulam Mohammad Bhat has been harassing me from last two weeks by putting baseless allegations like stone pelting and shouting slogans during their demolition drive which happened on 10th February,” the reporter Gul has said in his statement to the Club.

“It is pertinent to say that on that day I was out of the station at Rajbagh in Srinagar. I have kindly requested DySP (concerned) to locate the location of my cell phone on that day but to my utter dismay they are not resolving the matter. The Tehsildar has been threatening me to end my career and put me behind the bars for doing the story which is based on sheer truth and facts,” said Gul in his testimony to his editors at The Kashmir Walla.

The Club had flagged up the issue with the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir as well as the Deputy Commissioner about the alleged harassment by the Tehsildar concerned a few days ago but despite their assurances as reported by the said reporter an FIR has been registered against him.

“Given this background involving alleged threats by an official to journalists for doing a story and the threats of legal action and fabrications, the Kashmir Club urges upon the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and Inspector General of Police Kashmir to look into the matter and alleged misuse of his authority by the concerned Tehsildar on whose insistence an FIR has been filed against the concerned reporter.”

It reads that the concerned police officers are also urged upon to have a considerate view into the matter and thoroughly probe the matter and particularly the assertion by the reporter that he wasn’t even present at the location on that day. “He himself is ready to give all the proof in this regard.”

The Club expressed deep concern on registration of such an FIR against the journalist concerned on “false and fabricated charges” again and reiterates that public-spirited journalism or highlighting the concerns of the affected is one of the primary duties of the media and implicating a journalist for rendering public services on false and fabricated charges is an assault on journalism.

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