Jammu and Kashmir Police have booked yet another journalist on charges of "unlawful activities" through social media posts. Gowhar Geelani, a journalist and an author, has been charged under stringent anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act).
The FIR (first information report) against Mr Geelani, the third against Kashmir-based journalists in the last 48 hours, was filed hours after the Editors Guild of India expressed shock and concern over FIRs against two journalists in Srinagar. In its statement the organisation called it a "gross misuse of power" and that the "only purpose can be strike terror into journalists".
In a statement issued by J&K Police's Cyber Cell, Mr Geelani has been accused of "indulging in unlawful activities through his posts and writings on social media platforms, which are prejudicial to the national integrity, sovereignty and security of India".
"The unlawful activities include glorifying terrorism in Kashmir Valley, causing disaffection against the country and causing fear or alarm in the minds of public that may lead to commission of offences against public tranquillity and the security of (the) state," the statement adds.
According to police "several complaints" had been received against Mr Geelani for "threatening and intimidation".
Earlier two other journalists, Peerzada Ashiq (J&K correspondent for The Hindu newspaper) and Masrat Zahra, a young photographer, were booked.
Like Mr Geelani, Ms Zahra, who was questioned Tuesday, was booked under UAPA for social media posts; cops have alleged her comments are "anti-national".
On Monday, Mr Ashiq was questioned over a story published by his newspaper. He was subsequently directed to Anantnag district to join the investigation. As per cops a FIR has been registered over a "fake" news report but neither Mr Ashiq nor The Hindu have been named.
Over the last eight months, since the centre withdrew special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, several journalists working in Srinagar have been summoned by the police. Reporters and media persons have alleged harassment and have claimed freedom of the press is being muzzled.
They have demanded that cases against them be withdrawn.
The Editors Guild of India has expressed shock and concern over the FIRs. "Purpose is to strike terror into journalists. The Guild believes this is an indirect way of intimidating journalists in the rest of the country as well," it said.
The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement pic.twitter.com/GUam3Ti53N— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) April 21, 2020
The organisation has called on the government to ensure journalists not be put in harm's way or be harassed and has also demanded that charges be dropped.
In a statement, human rights group Amnesty International also urged the centre to stop intimidation of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir.