J&K Police Warns Legal Action On BBC Over Kashmir Press Freedom Report

The Jammu and Kashmir Police criticised the report for unfairly portraying their law and order initiatives as biased against journalists.

Press freedom (Representative image)

Expressing their displeasure with a BBC report titled 'Any story could be your last' that highlights India's actions in controlling press freedom in Kashmir, the Jammu and Kashmir Police criticized the report for unfairly portraying their law and order initiatives as biased against journalists.

A spokesperson for the J&K Police, on X (formerly Twitter), stated that the State Investigation Agency (SIA), which is the elite counter-militancy agency of J&K, may consider taking additional legal actions against the BBC for what they believe to be the misrepresentation of facts in a case that is currently under judicial consideration, as reported by The Wire.

The case revolves around the imprisonment of Fahad Shah, a journalist based in Srinagar, who was arrested for publishing an article deemed "seditious." This article was authored by a scholar from the University of Kashmir and was featured on Fahad Shah's online media platform, The Kashmir Walla.

Recently, the digital media outlet in Srinagar ceased operations due to actions taken by the Indian government's information technology ministry. They took down TKW's website and social media accounts using a law that has faced criticism from free speech activists. The BBC report briefly mentions Fahad Shah, the editor of the digital magazine, stating that he was arrested in February 2022 under anti-terror laws on charges of "propagating terror." Shah has been implicated in four anti-terror cases and subjected to the Public Safety Act. While he has been granted bail in at least three cases, he was charged by the State Investigation Agency (SIA) on April 4, 2022, nearly 11 years after his digital magazine published the "seditious" article titled "The shackles of slavery will break."

The widely shared BBC report also discusses the arrests of other journalists, including Aasif Sultan from Srinagar, who worked for a local English magazine that is now closed, Sajad Gul, a trainee reporter with TKW from north Kashmir, and Irfan Mehraj, another journalist based in Srinagar. These journalists have been charged under anti-terror laws by the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

The report includes quotes from seven journalists and an editor, all of whom chose to remain anonymous, expressing how they feel "choked and suffocated" by an atmosphere of "fear and intimidation" created by authorities in Kashmir, especially when reporting on events that do not align with the official narrative. The BBC report also highlights the closure of Kashmir's sole press club in 2022 by authorities and the tragic assassination of Shujaat Bukhari, a senior journalist and editor who was fatally shot outside his office in 2018, to underscore the alleged decline in press freedom in Kashmir.

The article, published on Friday, September 1, refers to Jammu and Kashmir as "Indian administered Kashmir." The BBC claimed to have spoken with more than two dozen journalists, with "more than 90 percent" of them stating that they had been summoned by J&K Police, some multiple times, particularly following the revocation of Article 370 by the Indian government in 2019, which led to the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories

Inputs from The Wire