Asking media persons and other organisations to issue statements only "after ascertaining the facts," Jammu and Kashmir Police on Thursday said they have always maintained highest regard for freedom of press.
The police statement came in the backdrop of widespreadcriticism the law-enforcing agency is facing after they booked threejournalists – Masarat Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq and Gowhar Geelani – understringent laws.
"With reference to a claim by certain groups that freedom ofpress is being curtailed, IGP Kashmir said that before making such broadgeneralisations people should ascertain the facts," a statement released bypolice said.
"IGP Kashmir said that only one journalist has beenquestioned about a journalistic work as only one FIR of instigating people forviolence has been registered over an encounter in Shopian at PS Anantnag.
"Remaining two persons have not been booked for anyjournalistic work of their's but because of the reason that they have postedexplicitly seditious, incendiary and incriminating texts on social media,challenging sovereignty and integrity of India and attempting to instigatepeople for violence," police said. "Oneof them in the recent days has also met IGP Kashmir along with 3-4 members ofKashmir Press Club Srinagar and accepted the mistake claiming ignorance of therelevant law and assured not to repeat the same in future," the statement said."IGP assured that an impartial investigation will take place."
Without naming Gowhar Geelani, the statement said,"Regarding the other person who has additionally been booked there are writtencomplaints as he has exposed life of some peaceful and law abiding citizens tograve risk by posting incriminating and provocative adjectives against them onsocial media platforms like FB and Twitter. The content of these specificcomplaints discloses a criminal act and law will take its course and thewritten complaints against this individual will be investigated as mandated bylaw."
"The IGP also reiterated that J&K Police has alwaysmaintained highest regard for freedom of press. Media persons and otherrelevant organisations are expected to issue statements only after ascertainingthe facts." The cyber cell of J&K Police has booked Zahra under Section 13of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and IPC Section 505. The UAPAallows authorities to declare individuals as terrorists and seize their properties.If found guilty, a person can be jailed for up to seven years. Section 505 ofthe penal code deals with provocation to commit offence against any class orcommunity. Before Zahra, Peerzada Ashiq,correspondent for The Hindu, was also summoned by cyber police to explain thecontent of a news story. On Monday, the police said they had booked Ashiq foralleged "fake news item." The police has said the story related to an encounterin Shopian was published without confirmation from district officials.
In his defence, Ashiq had said he had evidence to prove thathe got the facts right. Later police cyber cell registered FIR againstfreelance journalist and author Gowhar Geelani. However charges in the FIR havenot been made public so far.