J&K police file FIR on “The Hindu” newspaper report

Correspondent called for questioning

The Hindu

Describing a report headlined “Kin allowed to exhume bodies of militants in Baramulla” published by The Hindu on April 19 as “fake news,” the Jammu and Kashmir police have registered an FIR in the matter.

The Hindu’s correspondent in Srinagar, Peerzada Ashiq, was called for questioning by the Cyber Police in Srinagar on Sunday and then again on the same evening by the Anantnag police before being permitted to return home.

“The details quoted in the news item were factually incorrect and could cause fear or alarm in the minds of public. The news published without seeking confirmation from the district authorities,” a J&K police release said on Saturday. An FIR (No. 81/2020) was registered in relation to the news item at the Anantnag police station, the release added.

The Hindu’s report was based on a quote from the uncle of a slain militant, Ghulam Nabi Magray. However, contrary to what he conveyed to the reporter, no permission for exhumation of the bodies had been given. Apparently, the families had misconstrued grant of a movement/curfew pass as sanction for exhumation.

The report also said, “Yasin Choudhary, Deputy Commissioner, Shopian, was not available for his comment.” No rejoinder/clarification was received by the newspaper prior to the registration of the FIR either from the police or from the information department.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Twitter handle, used by her daughter Iltija, said, “A correspondent working for The Hindu was interrogated for hours on an article that didn’t fit into the narrative of the establishment. Any dissent/counter opinion has been outlawed & criminalised. Filing FIRs & invoking stringent laws meant for criminals is a blot on democracy.”

In a related development, the Kashmir Press Club condemned the booking of a freelance photojournalist, Masrat Zahra, under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Ms. Zahra was also interrogated by the police.

An “appeal” was also issued by the Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar that any information, which has bearing on national security and can cause “social instability” be clarified/confirmed before publication.