The international press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a statement released on 22 February, asked the authorities in the Government of India to drop their investigations into the work of three journalists– Yashraj Sharma, Mir Junaid, and Sajad Gul.
“Jammu and Kashmir Police must drop their investigations into all three journalists and stop targeting journalists because of their reporting,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher.
Yashraj Sharma, Mir Junaid, and Sajad Gul have had FIRs [First Information Reports] filed against them by the local police.
Following a complaint by an unnamed officer of the Indian Army, the Jammu and Kashmir police had filed the FIRs against Sharma, a reporter for an independent local news organization The Kashmir Walla, and Junaid, a reporter at another independent local news organization The Kashmiriyat.
In their complaint, the army has alleged that news reports about a school in Shopian being “pressured” by them to hold this year’s Republic Day function is “baseless” and spreading fake news.
Both the reporters have been booked under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. If charged and convicted, Sharma and Junaid could face up to three years in prison under Indian law, according to CPJ.
Further, the complainant has also accused The Kashmir Walla and The Kashmiriyat, as corporate entities, of the same offenses.
The third journalist, Gul, has been booked under inciting riots and “stone-pelting” following his report on forced demolition of homes in a village in North Kashmir’s Bandipore district. The journalist alleges it has been done as a personal vendetta against him by the official in question.
The investigation underway is being done under Sections 147 (rioting), 447 (criminal trespass), and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code, and if convicted can mean up to two years in prison for Gul.
Neither of the three journalists has received a copy of the complaint received at the time of the FIR as required per law.
According to the report published by CPJ, there had been no response from the security agencies in question despite repeated attempts to reach them.