SRINAGAR: Police in India-held Kashmir are investigating two journalists for allegedly spreading “fake news,” authorities said on Monday, as a months-long security crackdown in the Muslim-majority state persists.

Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar said freelance photojournalist Masrat Zehra, a contributor to various international publications, had been booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for her “anti-national” posts on Facebook and other social media.

The law allows the government to designate individuals as terrorists and empowers India’s National Investigation Agency to investigate such cases.

Police have not arrested the journalists so far.

“The post by the (Facebook) users can provoke the public to disturb the law and order besides glorifying the anti-national activities,” Kumar said, in an apparent reference to Zehra’s postings on social media.

Recent feeds from Zehra, who has accused the government of censorship, have focused on freedom struggle in the occupied region, as well as scenic beauty and Covid-19 related issues.

Press club asks Indian govt to differentiate between journalism and cybercrime

“They want to silence and suppress me for bringing out the repressed voices and stories from Kashmir,” she said on Monday. The government in August revoked the constitutional autonomy of disputed Jammu and Kashmir by splitting it into two federal territories in a bid to integrate it fully with India and to rein in uprising.

The change in status was accompanied by a crackdown that included the severing of telecommunications links and curbs on travel and the deployment of thousands of troops.

Kumar also said Pirzada Ashiq, a journalist working with the Hindu newspaper, had been summoned for publicising fake news in the newspaper about a gunbattle in which two Kashmiris were killed last week.

Senior staff at the newspaper could not be reached for immediate comment.

Kumar said that the journalist would be arrested if he were found to have acted deliberately.

The Kashmir Press Club condemned what it described as harassment in the summoning of journalists by the police.

Even in this time of coronavirus pandemic journalists in Kashmir have been called to police stations and forced to present themselves to explain their stories, a statement issued by press club said.

Government especially the police, need to understand there is a vast difference between journalism and cybercrime, it said.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2020