Prominent international non-government organizations have called for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of charges against Kashmiri journalists Masarrat Zahra and Peerzada Ashiq.
In a statement in New York, Senior Asia Researcher of Committee to Protect Journalists Aliya Iftikhar said India should reform its laws to make such capricious actions by police impossible. “Masarrat Zahra and Peerzada Ashiq should be free to report on events in Jammu and Kashmir without facing harassment and intimidation from local authorities,” she added.
In a statement, head of Asia-Pacific desk of Reporters Without Borders Daniel Bastard called on Indian authorities to immediately drop these outrageous charges against Masarrat Zahra in the absence of any substantiation by police.
“These proceedings clearly amount to intimidation and, as such, directly violate article 19 (1a) of India’s 1950 constitution. This photojournalist must be allowed to continue her work without fear of further harassment attempts,” he added.
Meanwhile, journalists from Kashmir as well as India have also reacted strongly to the charges against the two Kashmiri journalists.
Kashmiri journalist Gowhar Geelani told Al Jazeera that “invoking stringent provisions of a draconian law” against Zahra “speaks volumes about the gags against media to silence journalists, to control the narratives by use of force, and to contain the Kashmir story with lawlessness”.
Muzamil Jaleel, deputy editor of New Delhi-based The Indian Express newspaper, tweeted that Zahra has “honestly told stories of Kashmir in a four-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 In solidarity with our colleague, we demand FIR withdrawn.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,” he posted.
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry also condemned the harassment of journalists in Kashmir and demanded withdrawal of case against Zahra. “The filing of a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against 26 year-old photojournalist Masarrat Zahra for uploading posts regarding her previously published works is a direct interference in the independence of the media,” a KCCI spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that earlier also, there have been several instances of journalists being summoned to Police Stations and questioned on “flimsy grounds”.