The Jammu and Kashmir police have booked two Kashmiri news websites, The Kashmir Walla and The Kashmiriyat, after a complaint by the Indian Army. J&K Police registered the FIR after the portals carried a news story of a school in south Kashmir's Shopian, allegedly forced by the Army to hold a Republic Day function on January 26.
The FIRs have been filed under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. The Army has alleged that the reports carried by the news portals were baseless and 'fake'.
On January 26, 2021, Jamia Siraj ul Uloom, Imam Sahib Shopian, held a Republic Day function for the first time. A video clip of the 'celebrations', which featured young boys and men holding the Indian flag while the Indian national anthem played in the background, went viral. Later, the Kashmir Walla and the Kashmiriyat reported that the school was forced to hold the celebrations. Muhammad Yusuf Manto, the founder and chairman of the school, told reporters that the Army's 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) was "pursuing him to hold this function for the past one month".
Editor of the Kashmir Walla, Fahad Shah, took to Twitter and said that these FIRs were mentally draining and impacting the work of journalists. "I, as editor of @tkwmag, stand by our reporting as we have ample evidence to prove so," he tweeted.
While calling the story 'honest reporting', editor of the Kashmiriyat, Qazi Shibli said, "The editors at TK stand by our report, because the team has worked with honesty, with proof. These are tough times, thank u & keep supporting."
Meanwhile, the Shopian school negated the reports.
Responses from media fraternity
DIGIPUB, an association of digital-only news ventures and freelancers, in one of its statements, condemned the lodging of FIR against The Kashmir Walla and Kashmiriyat.
Senior Kashmiri Journalist, Yusuf Jameel, said that subjecting media persons to harassment has become a 'norm' now. "This shouldn't & will not stop us from getting to the truth & reporting it candidly," Jameel said in a tweet.
Journalist and author, Gowhar Geelani said, "Kashmir is so frightened or so used to remaining silent spectator that it does not utter a word when colleagues and organizations are silenced, intimidated, harassed and vilified, one by one."
Since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, journalists and media houses in the valley have been more troubled.