The journalists targeted are Kashmirwalla reporter Yashraj Sharma; Kashmiriyat reporter Mir Junaid; and freelance journalist Sajad Gul. Police opened criminal investigations into Sharma and Junaid on January 30 for alleged incitement, while the region’s administration filed a First Information Report (FIR) against freelance journalist Sajad Gul on February 12 for “rioting, trespassing, and assault” accusing the journalist of taking part in a so-called illegal demonstration against home demolitions.
Sharma and Juniad were charged for their stories ‘Shopian school alleges “pressure from army to hold R-Day function’ and ‘We Were Forced to Celebrate the Republic Day Event by Forces’ respectively. Published on January 27, both reports revealed that schools in the Shopian district were heavied by the army to lend school space to mark a Republic Day function on January 26. Both quoted the founder and chairperson of Jamia Siraj-ul-Uloom, a private school based in Shopian’s Imamsahib as saying that army also pressured the school administration to put the school banner in front. The army however claims the news report is ‘fake’ and baseless.
According to police, the (FIR) against Sharma and Juniad were filed under Section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. This was based on a complaint by unnamed army officials in the local army camp. If convicted, Sharma and Junaid may face up to three years in prison.
Police booked freelance journalist Sajad Gul, from northern Kashmir’s Bandipora district, under Sections 147, 447 and 353 of the Indian Penal Code based on complaints by a land revenue tax officer (tehsildar) Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, from Hajin town, for a report published on February 9 which included quotes from locals alleging the officer was “harassing and threatening and using abusive language” against them during the demolition drive. The journalist was also accused of taking part in anti-demolition drive protests. If convicted, he faces up to two years of imprisonment .
The IFJ said: “This is the latest in the series of incidents of the misuse of power and law to criminalise journalists by J&K police and its administration. The IFJ urges the Indian authorizes to withdraw the cases against the journalists Sharma, Junaid and Gul and respect the media’s right to report stories of critical public interest.”