Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Police in Kashmir have filed a case against a woman photo-journalist on Saturday on trumped up charges of “glorifying anti-national activities” on social media.
A police station set up in Srinagar a few months back for cyber-crimes issued a press release announcing that they have registered a case against Masrat Zahra for “criminal intention of inducing the youth and to promote offences against public tranquility”.
The police said Zahra was uploading photographs that could “provoke the public to disturb law and order”. They confessed to have invoked a section 13 of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The law which was amended last year to allow the authorities to declare Individuals as terrorists.
Few days Zahra had shared pictures on her social media accounts from a story she had reported for The New Humanitarian.
The case comes at a time when journalists in Kashmir have been complaining of intimidation by state agencies “for doing their work”.
Photojournalist Masarat Zehra is a professional and has been working in Kashmir for over four years. Her work is honest and doesn't break any law. The fresh FIR against her is an attack on press freedom. #Journalismisnotacrime #summonusall
— Anees Zargar (@AneesZargar) April 20, 2020
The police action against Zahra has triggered a sharp reaction from Kashmir’s journalist fraternity who said they were shocked to see police FIR against a journalist for sharing her work.
We stand in solidarity with our colleague and seek that the FIR against her is immediately revoked. Journalism is not a crime. Intimidation to censor words, spoken and written, won’t silence the journalists of Kashmir. @Masratzahra #journalismisnotacrime #summonusall https://t.co/9I561QFHwh
— Aakash Hassan (@Aakashhassan) April 20, 2020
Journalists and activists have launched an online solidarity campaign to show their support with their colleague. They are appealing the police to revoke the case filed against Zahra.
Booking @Masratzahra, a young and incisive #Kashmiri photojournalist under the stringent #UAPA has a chilling effect on journalists working out of #Kashmir. The tactic has a long history in the restive region mired in a low intensity war for decades. #Solidarity
— Parvaiz Bukhari (@parvaizbukhari) April 20, 2020
Kashmir Press Club, a body of media professionals in Kashmir, expressed solidarity with Zahra and said “cases against journalists for their stories and work are unwarranted and outrightly illegal and draconian”.
Masrat zahra, a professional photojournalist, has told stories of Kashmir in her 4-year career. Invoking draconian UAPA against her is outrageous.We stand in solidarity with our colleague n demand withdrawal/closure of FIR. #journalismisnotacrime #summonusall pic.twitter.com/QDUxWUVtzs
— Quratulain Rehbar (@ainulrhbr) April 20, 2020
The club demanded that the charges against Zahra be dropped. “The police need to understand there is a vast difference between journalism and cyber crime,” the statement said.
She was summoned to Cyber Police Station on April 18, 2020. However after the Kashmir Press Club and Directorate of Information intervened at the highest level, the police dropped the summon, the statement added.
Masarat Zahra has honestly told stories of Kashmir in her 4-year career. Invoking draconian UAPA against her outrageous. We stand in solidarity with her. Demand withdrawal of FIR. Journalism not crime. Intimidation won’t silence journalists.#journalismisnotacrime #summonusall
— hilal mir (@mirhilaal) April 20, 2020
Masarat zehra, a professional photojournalist, has honestly told stories of Kashmir in 4-year career. Invoking UAPA is outrageous. In solidarity with our colleague, we demand FIR withdrawn. Journalism isn’t crime. Intimidation/ censorship won’t silence Kashmir’s journalists.
— Muzamil Jaleel (@MuzamilJALEEL) April 20, 2020
Masrat Zahra, who is being hailed for her hard work and professionalism, is one of the finest photojournalists in Kashmir whose work appeared in Washington Post, Al-Jazeera TRT World, Caravan Magazine, The New Humanitarian. mostly covers the impact of political violence on women in Kashmir.