Network of Women in Media demands dropping of FIR lodged against award-winning photojournalist

New Delhi, April 20: Network of Women in Media (NWMI) India is shocked at the FIR lodged against its member and award-winning photojournalist Masrat Zahra by the Cyber police, Srinagar under provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Indian Penal Code, a press statement issued by the NWMI stated. 

NWMI believes that the charges are preposterous in the extreme and amount to rank intimidation of a journalist who has won acclaim for her work, which documents the travails of people of Kashmir.

“Her special sensitivity towards the plight of women living under conflict in one of the most highly militarized zones in the world has been featured in both national and international publications of repute. Even a cursory look at Masrat Zahra’s Facebook account will show that her stories and photographs are deeply empathetic and accurate reports of the ground reality. Photographs do not lie and her work, as a photojournalist, are clearly uncomfortable for the powers that be,” NWMI stated

This is the second time in the recent past that the UAPA has been deployed against journalists in Kashmir. Journalist Aasif Sultan, who was arrested in August 2018 under the UAPA for an article on the slain militant leader Burhan Wani, is still in jail.

The case also comes on the heels of continuous harassment of journalists in Kashmir and is a naked attempt to browbeat journalists from pursuing their work, it stated.

“Journalists in Kashmir are already beleaguered and several have been reduced to precarity because the prolonged Internet shutdown and reduced internet speeds has spelled the death-knell for independent media in Kashmir”.

As a joint NWMI-FSC report (News behind the barbed wire) on the communication blockade in Kashmir in the wake of the abrogation of Art 370 pointed out, journalists are summoned to police stations and questioned about their reports and their sources of information, NWMI stated

“They have faced assault and even fired upon with pellet guns and work under almost continuous state surveillance”.

At a time when the entire world is engaged in a struggle to deal with the unprecedented crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NWMI said the state should make all attempts to help the media in Kashmir to report events without fear or favour.

It is highly regrettable that such measures are being adopted to undermine the efforts by the media to fulfil its professional duty, it added

“NWMI demands that the FIR lodged against Masrat Zahra be dropped forthwith. Further, NWMI demands that police and security forces stop all such intimidatory and harassing tactics against journalists”.

TThe Cyber Police Station Kashmir Zone, Srinagar, said that it lodged the FIR against Masrat Zahra for uploading photographs that can provoke the public to disturb law and order and glorify anti-national activities, the press release alleged.

The FIR has been lodged on April 18, 2020, u/s 13 of the UAPA and 505 of the Indian Penal Code.

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