Media Groups point to continuing suppression
Srinagar: On January 5, 26-year-old Sajad Gul, a trainee reporter with a local magazine Kashmiri portal The Kashmir Walla and student, was in Sri-nagar when the army reached his house in the Hajin area of Bandipora district, asking for him. The jawans took Gul’s contact number from his family and left.
Later in the evening, when Gul reached home and was about to go to sleep, he received a call from an unknown number. It was an army officer, asking Gul to come out.
“He told us that the army is asking him to come outside and he will be back soon. He was not afraid and told me that he will talk to them,” recalls his brother, who does not want to be named.
For about half an hour, the family waited for his return, calling his number continuously. There was no response.
“After multiple calls, someone answered the phone and informed us that he is with them. We couldn’t recognise his voice but we heard Sajad speaking from a distance, telling us to inform the media about his arrest,” Gul’s brother told The Wire. “Around 2 pm we contacted the SHO (Station House officer) Hajin about Sajad, and he told us that he is in police custody and they will release him in the morning.”
On Friday, The Kashmir Walla reported that Gul was arrested and booked under criminal con-spiracy and other charges, days after he posted a video of a family shouting anti-India slogans after their kin was killed in a gunfight in Srinagar.
Jammu and Kashmir Police in a statement said that they have arrested Gul for allegedly provoking people to “resort to violence and disturb public peace”.
They said that Gul “uploaded the objectionable videos with anti-national slogans raised by some women folk on the day when most wanted terrorist Saleem Parray was eliminated in Shalimar Srina-gar”.
“…the said person under the garb of journalist [sic] is habitual of spreading disinformation/false narratives through different social media platforms in order to create ill will against the government by provoking general masses to resort to violence and disturb public peace and tranquility,” the statement read.
He has been charged under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505B (fear or alarm to the public) of the Indian Penal Code.
Arrested for reporting Gul’s family members, since his arrest, have been going to the police sta-tion to ask about his release, but returning home disappointed.
The video posted by Gul had shown a protest against the killing of alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyabba commander Salim Parray, who was killed in a gun-fight with security forces on Monday in the Harwan area of Srinagar. After his killing, minor protests had taken place in Hajin, where Parray was from.
“We pleaded with them (the police), saying that if he has made any mistake, please forgive him and we are assuring you that he won’t repeat it again,” a family member of Gul’s told The Wire. “But we don’t see any chance of his release as they (police) have filed serious charges against him and we have no idea how to get him out.”
“We have been telling him to stop doing jour-nalism after being harassed many times in the past, but being a journalism student he never listens to us. He does not want to stop his work,” he explained.
The editor-in-chief of The Kashmir Walla, Fa-had Shah, told The Wire that for the last one year, Gul has been contributing to the magazine and in February last year, he did a story on a demolition drive. Soon after that story, the police filed an FIR against him.
“Three weeks ago he joined our magazine and is currently working with us. We will fight his case and we have involved our lawyers in the matter. On Monday, we will file his bail application,” Shah said.
He said that Gul has been continuously harassed by the administration and the police for one reason or another, whether it is a story about general ad-ministrative issues or about militancy and conflict.
“He is either threatened or summoned, and now he has been arrested. Before this arrest, he used to tell me that someday they (the police) will do some-thing grave,” Shah said.
On the videos Gul had shared, Shah said he was simply reporting on the events. “Whatever the fam-ily or the people say, that doesn’t mean Sajad is saying it. You cannot jail the messenger. You can-not punish the reporter for delivering the message. It is our job as journalists to report what is happening. Whatever people tell us. If we stop doing that, then we are no longer journalists,” he explained.