The SIA has also accused Reporters Without Borders of subverting democratic freedoms.
While legacy and independent news publishers look at the subscription model as the way forward in the post-pandemic years, an Indian probe agency suspects this revenue mechanism can be used by “unscrupulous elements” to pump money and foment trouble in Jammu and Kashmir.
This is what the State Investigation Agency’s chargesheet – against journalist Peerzada Fahad Shah and Kashmir University scholar Abdul Aala Fazili – filed before an NIA court in Jammu indicates, the Indian Express reported. They 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.
“Unscrupulous elements can utilise this route to fund an entity to foment trouble in a region and carry out propaganda in its own interest,” the SIA stated, adding that “this part is under investigation”.
This isn’t all. The probe agency has also accused press freedom outfit Reporters Without Borders, known as RSF, of subverting democratic freedom. “Reporters Sans Frontiers also popularly called as reporters without borders is an organisation which supports press freedom all over the world, while in reality the entity is involved in subverting the democratic freedoms all over the world,” the SIA said in its chargesheet, according to the Indian Express. It said the RSF was contacted via email to seek clarity, but did not respond.
The RSF has previously been accused by the union I&B ministry of taking an arbitrary approach to question press freedom indices in the country. The ministry earlier told parliament that the government does not agree with conclusions drawn by the NGO about press freedom in India for various reasons, including very low sample size and little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy.
The SIA’s chargesheet claimed that there is evidence that the Kashmir Walla is a “well directed conspiracy” and part of Pakistan’s efforts to revive the narrative in support of the “terrorist and separatist ecosystem”. “Under this plan, select anti-India elements within the media, guided from across, have held several secret meetings in which the adversary instructed” them “to form media platforms, especially digital platforms that are inexpensive but have wider reach; form and float associations that can conceal and camouflage such persons and screen their connections with and funding from hostile foreign agencies and terrorist/secessionist entities,” the chargesheet stated, according to the Indian Express.
As an aside, independent news platforms, including Newslaundry, and their subscription model have often been targeted by sections of the news media and the right wing. Time and again, wild accusations have cropped up, questioning the source of income for such websites, and expressing disbelief that an honest taxpayer can pay for news that does not serve government or corporate interests.
The source of this revenue then is alleged to be “anti-national” elements or foreign forces. (You can read about our ownership details here on our series Who Owns Your Media.)
Last month, Republic editor Arnab Goswami ranted about billionaire George Soros and digital media after he said that PM Narendra Modi and industrialist Gautam Adani are “close allies” and that Modi is “no democrat”.
“Soros,” said Goswami, his hands raised like a magician, “the allegedly evil Soros, has given a lot of money to a lot of people in the Indian news and especially the Indian digital news ecosystem”, aka #SorosMedia. He explained that #SorosMedia was dishonest about taking money from Soros through forex transfers, entities operating in tax havens, escrow accounts, and debt financing.
In 2021, Goswami had hailed the ad revenue model while questioning the logic of funding news ventures that make “no profit”, in a reference to independent media that does not rely on advertisements.
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