Days after over a suspected militant threat to nearly 20 journalists in Kashmir, police searched the houses of several journalists on Saturday.
“Massive searches in connection with #investigation of case related to recent #threat to journalists started by Police at 10 locations in #Srinagar, #Anantnag and #Kulgam. Details shall be followed,” Kashmir police tweeted. The houses of journalists Wasim Raja and Hakim Rashid Maqbool, and former journalists Khalid Gul, Sajad Krylari, Gowhar Gilani, and Turkey-based Mukhtar Baba, were among those searched.
This comes days after five associated with the daily Rising Kashmir resigned in wake of the threats. Police earlier said it suspected The Resistance Front, an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, to be behind the threats which were published on the blacklisted blog called the “Kashmir fight”. An FIR was subsequently filed under the UAPA in Srinagar.
On this blacklisted blog, two lists were issued over a period of one week – the first with 22 names, including mostly local journalists. The second list of 10 names mentioned several journalists associated with national media organisations such as the Indian Express and the Hindu as well as international outlets such as the Guardian and New York Times.
While releasing the lists, the blog accused these journalists of trying to change “the narrative of resistance” and “furthering the idea of occupation”. It claimed that “kickbacks” these “pseudo-journalists” have received for “selling their conscience” have also been probed over three months. It also accused some of them of blackmail and “sextortion”.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Kashmir-based journalist said, “The poster issuing a threat was published on a banned blogging site and then it got circulated in social media groups…it’s the same blog which ran a campaign against slain journalist Shujaat Bukhari…unfortunately, threats are issued against journalists and now police are raiding the houses of journalists themselves. Some of them are former journalists who don’t even write any more.
“Being a journalist in Kashmir is not an easy job, you are on surveillance all the time, your phones are tapped, your social media accounts are monitored. In such a situation, journalists will involve themselves in helping militants to create such online posters. Government should definitely find out the culprits but raiding the houses of journalists is a futile activity. It’s basically a cover-up that police are trying to find out the culprits, but, unfortunately they are again targeting the journalists here.”
Another journalist from the valley said, “Kashmiri journalists have been facing a lot of pressure since the last three decades from all the parties of the conflict. This recent crackdown is an escalation…this release by non-state actors saying journalists have become sources of army and police is something which cannot be trusted. Journalists in Kashmir are politically well aware and they cannot become sources to any party.”
Police also searched properties linked to lawyer Abu Aadil Pandith and alleged TRF commander Basit Dar in Kulgam.
Newslaundry reached out to Kashmir IGP Vijay Kumar for a comment. This report will be updated if a response is received.
Newslaundry also reached out to three journalists who recently resigned in the wake of the threats, but they did not respond. This report will be updated if a response is received.