Besides claiming that the news subscription model can be exploited – by anti-India forces and entities such as the NGO Reporters Sans Frontiers – to push seditious propaganda, an Indian probe agency has alleged that the media can be used to abet terror activities in Kashmir in several ways.
Among these, it has listed the power of writing, narration and poems to propagate a certain agenda, and pointed to the significance of an editor’s role.
All this is part of the State Investigation Agency’s chargesheet before a court in Jammu, against journalist Peerzada Fahad Shah and Kashmir University scholar Abdul Aala Fazili, who were arrested last year. It has been alleged that Fazili wrote a “seditious” article published by Shah’s digital magazine, The Kashmir Walla, in 2011.
What did the chargesheet say to prove how the media can propagate terror? Let’s take a look.
41 articles, and a ‘well directed conspiracy’
The SIA said it probed the organisation’s website to check if Fazili’s article was the only one written in a “well directed conspiracy”, but it found 40 other “seditious” items. It does not specify what these other articles were about though it said they come under the category of “seditious matter/anti India/glorifying terrorists and narrative terrorism”.
It went on to claim that Shah is a “habitual offender” with a “history of misreporting and publishing articles that are seditious in nature and cause disharmony among the masses”. “The digital magazine is being run as a propaganda tool against the lawful actions of the government with the aim to disrupt peace.”
‘Unscrupulous’ subscription model
The agency claimed that Shah’s job, as an editor-in-chief, was primarily to platform write-ups to amplify anti-India propaganda “that has been set and is being guided from across”.
The SIA said a subscription model helps anti-India elements conceal their “connections and funding from hostile foreign agencies and terrorists and secessionist entities”. “Unscrupulous elements can utilise this route to fund an entity to foment trouble in a region and carry out propaganda in its own interest,” it said, adding that this part was under investigation.
Role of editor
Referring to the case against Shah and Fazili, the chargesheet said that the editor of The Kashmir Wala had intentionally conspired with the author to endorse the contents of the latter’s article.
It said an article has the potential to bring “doom’s day for a state” and “editors have to take responsibility of everything they publish and maintain the integrity of the published record”.
To prove that Shah was part of a larger conspiracy, the agency mentioned a “seemingly yet to be published” book of poems, titled My Last Sigh, on his laptop in a word file saved as “My Poems”. The agency claimed it contained 26 poems written by Shah, in which he allegedly mentions that Kashmir is his birthright and he is mentally and emotionally part of the anti-India resistance.
The agency claimed this proves that “he is part of a larger conspiracy” and is “driving a narrative that brazenly glorifies terrorism and abets the youth to take the path of violence”.
The agency said that though he is not physically present in the protests, he, by way of writings, is “targeting a larger audience for support and thus playing an important part in the freedom struggle”. The agency says that “as a consequence, terrorism and unlawful activities across J&K have increased.”
Word files on ‘story tips’
The chargesheet makes a reference to another word file, which was saved as “Children of Kashmir in freedom struggle”. It claimed that this was written by Shah and sent to an “unknown person” who sent it back after changes and suggestions “as per a toolkit to suit the propaganda of separatists and anti India forces”.
The suggestions, the agency claims, are a direct indication that “contaminated journalists” are being tasked to target young audiences as part of a plan.
It does not specify what these suggestions were.
The chargesheet mentions another word file, saved as “Story tips for narration,” in which Shah allegedly highlighted “tips for narration to suit the propaganda machinery and serve as fodder to the terror ecosystem.”
According to the agency, “the file is in all probability received as a toolkit/example points and tips for adhering to while writing an article and further shared with the separatists (under the garb of freelancers and reporters) to write similar pieces and propagate the agenda.”
Another word file, it found, was saved as “Narration-2 comments” and spoke about how to narrate the news in pursuit of the aim to “artificially portray the situation to persuade their audience to believe in and nurture an overarching set of notions: that nothing good can happen and should happen as long as Kashmir is part of India, Indian State by default is brutal, anti-Kashmiri and anti-Muslim Pakistan is not only desireable but feasible.”
It does not specify these narration styles either.
‘Igniting feelings of jihad’
The agency presented data of missing youngsters who had joined militant ranks in Kashmir since 2011, and violence linked to terror and unlawful activities since 2012, to claim that the article had contributed to this.
“The article written by Aala Fazili is believed to have been one of the reasons to ignite feelings of jihad amongst gullible youth who fall prey to this narrative and are often motivated to take part in the so-called freedom struggle. It is writings, such as these, that drive young men to the path of terrorism and death.”
Reporters Without Borders
The SIA alleged that Kashmir Wala Media Pvt Ltd received foreign funding to the tune of Rs 10,59,163 from international non-profit Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF). A sizable remittance figure in the magazine’s bank statement is reportedly from subscriptions, it said.
The chargesheet said that RSF, which was also popularly known as Reporters Without Borders, is an organisation that supports press freedom all over the world, but, “in reality the entity is involved in subverting the democratic freedoms all over the world”. The SIA said that it attempted to reach the RSF via email but didn't receive a response.
“Although RSF claims to be neutral, the organisation’s objectivity and the validity of its Worldwide Press Freedom Index have been questioned. It is asserted that RSF is unfairly critical of south Asian countries, especially India and Latin American countries. As such, the funding from the entity is highly suspicious,” the agency said.
It claimed that based on oral, documentary and material evidence mentioned, it is established that Shah and Fazili have “reconstructed a platform” for “reviving the narrative in support of terrorist and separatist ecosystem”.
“Under this plan, select anti-India elements within the media, guided from across, have held several serious meetings” to form media platforms, “especially digital platforms” that are inexpensive but have wider reach.
It said that the journalist and the scholar “are contaminated and compromised journalists” and achieve their objectives by “deliberately and dishonestly manipulating and playing with the facts, subtly but if necessary brazenly by putting facts without context or out of context or selectively reporting them or by selectively exaggerating some and underplaying or muting others by ironically but craftily and cunningly invoking the legal rights to press freedom and political dissent guaranteed by the very Indian state which they want to undermine.”