Continuing their crackdown on journalists, the Jammu and Kashmir police have booked Masrat Zahra, a photojournalist based in Srinagar, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for uploading “ anti-national” photos on social media.
Zahra is the second Kashmiri journalist to be booked under the draconian UAPA, which allows the state to proscribe individuals as terrorists. A person charged under the UAPA can be jailed for up to seven years. In September 2018, , a reporter with Kashmir Narrator, was arrested for allegedly providing logistical support to a banned militant group. He remains in detention.
In a statement reported by the Indian Express, the police claimed they had received information through “reliable sources” that Zahra was uploading “anti-national posts” on Facebook “with criminal intention to induce the youth and to promote offences against public tranquillity”.
Zahra is an accomplished journalist. Her work has appeared in Indian and international publications, including the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Caravan.
Zahra was contacted Saturday evening and told to appear before the police’s Cyber Cell immediately. “Since there was a lockdown and I didn’t have a curfew pass, I told them that I cannot come immediately,” Zahra told Scroll. “They pressurised me to come but I didn’t go. They didn’t mention a first information report.”
Zahra then approached fellow journalists for help. “I immediately brought the call to the notice of senior journalists and office bearers of Kashmir Press Club,” Scroll quoted her as saying. “Later that evening, I got a call from one of the KPC members and they told me that the matter has been solved and I didn’t need to go. They told me they have spoken to police higher-ups about the matter.”
Zahra claimed that she was not informed an FIR had been registered against her. “The police didn’t call me directly to inform me about the FIR,” she told Scroll. “I came to know about it from my colleagues.”
The Kashmir Press Club condemned the police’s action. “This is unfortunate that authorities are hounding journalists for their work,” Ishfaq Tantry, general secretary of the Kashmir Press Club, told the Indian Express.