J&K Scribe in Jail Under PSA for ‘Underreporting’ Welfare Schemes of Administration

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Sajad Gul

The dossier issued against the reporter under PSA makes purported less reporting about the achievements of the administration as one of the main grounds for action against him.

Zafar Afaq l Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Can underreporting of the performance of an establishment can held be held against a journalist for punitive action? It may sound weird, but this is exactly what has happened to Sajad Gul. Gul, a reporter from Jammu & Kashmir, has been sent behind bars under the controversial Public Safety Act for purported less reportage of “welfare of the Union territory (UT)”.

The dossier issued against the reporter makes his purported less reporting about the achievements of the administration as one of the main grounds for action against him. It reads: He would “remain in search of anti-national/anti-social tweets and has remained a negative critique towards UT Policies”.

What’s more, they have labeled him a messiah of “terrorists and their families” and would raise issues which harm the national interests” all because he didn’t toe the administration’s line.

Gul was first arrested on January 6 in his home district of Bandi[ora in the Valley after he posted a video of a family of a slain militant airing their grouse against authorities. Though the court granted him bail days later, he was not let off. Instead the district magistrate brought PSA against him and he was shifted to a jail in Jammu, more than 350 km from his hometown.

The PSA dossier describes him a “mere puppet under the banner of journalism” accusing him of having developed “relations with various anti-national gangs being operated from across (the) border” with the aim “destabilise” the government in the Union territory.

Under the PSA, Gul could be kept under detention for six months to two year without trial or formal charges until the high court quashes them.

According to an Indian Express report, the PSA against Gul, alleges that “being well educated” he could use social media to provoke people against the government.

“Since (the) internet has made the world a global village and you use it as a tool by making statements on social media which causes mischief and promotes enmity… Besides, it is easy for you to manipulate people of (the) valley towards your ill intentions as you are well qualified and can brainwash people easily against (a) Government established by law,” read the dossier.

The journo is a media student at the Central University of Kashmir while actively working in the field. He recently joined a local news website, Kashmir Walla, as a reporter. The organisation has condemned his arrest and pledged to defend him in court.

The dossier justifies the invocation of the PSA against Gul to keep him in jail even though he got bail claiming “… there is every apprehension that you may get bailed out from Hon’ble Court of law thus will prove fatal for peaceful atmosphere, tranquility, law and order of the Nation… your release at this stage will be a threat not only for Bandipora area but for the whole Valley.”

The magistrate further accuses him of being “filled with hatred against the Union of India” and his activities are “prejudicial to the security and sovereignty of the country”.  The PSA assumes that if Gul is kept out of jail his freedom could harm the “peaceful atmosphere” in the Valley as he could provoke youth as he has “a good number of followers” on social media done before.

Journalist Federation of Kashmir condemned the invocation of the PSA against Gul and urged the authorities to release him immediately. “We see PSA against our colleague as an act of punitive retribution for his journalistic work on the ground that the authorities are uncomfortable with,” the group said.

Journalists in Kashmir have been alleging increased harassment in the form of cases, summons, questioning, and surveillance at the hands of authorities for their critical reporting for quite some time now.

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