PCI calls out “bullying tactics” against journalists, demands withdrawal of charges

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Srinagar: Press Club of India (PCI) has called out the charges against Kashmiri journalists by Jammu and Kashmir police and demanded from the Governor’s administration to “devise open and transparent norms to address perceived questions relating to journalists’ posts on social media,” and drop the charges against Kashmiri journalists.

In a statement issued here, the PCI has said that the “Cyber Police appear to be super-active in the Valley, parsing every word written and then summoning journalists to the police station.” Even in a conflict zone, the statement mentioned, where hostile intelligence operations may be ongoing, a democracy must preserve democratic norms.

This week, the police booked two journalists — Masrat Zahra and Gowhar Geelani — for their social media posts, which the police claimed were anti-national, under the India’s anti-terror law. The police also registered an FIR on a report by Peerzada Ashiq for The Hindu.

“Currently, it is all too easy to treat a criticism as anti-national activity intended to comfort the enemy,” the PCI said. It also noted that these devleopments have become the new norm in Kashmir “for the police to call journalists to police stations in connection with their published reports, photographs, or their social media posts, and to file FIRs against journalists.”

The statemnet added that under the normal rules and practices of a democracy, perceived news errors are dealt with through official denials or writing a letter to the editor.

“While the past week has seen a string of strong-arm methods being used, since the change of J&K’s constitutional status last August, objective journalism in Kashmir has been sought to be suppressed,” it stated. “After the Internet lockdown ended (even now only slow-speed Internet operates), journalists of the local media have been subjected to heat by the administration.”

The PCI also stated that the events in this week appear “designed to intimidate the media. Perhaps the effort is to convert the entire media into official media through arm-twisting, or to render them into a silent media.”

“We deplore this trend… These bullying tactics are spreading a bad odour, nationally and internationally.”

Various national and international rights groups and media watchers have asked for immediate withdrawal of charges against the journalists.

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