Conflict

#JournalismIsNotACrime: Auqib Javeed accuses Cyber Police of ‘physical, verbal assault’ for story on ‘cyberbullying’

Srinagar: Days after Kashmir based journalist Auqib Javeed was summoned by the Cyber Police Station, the scribe has written a scathing piece saying that he stands by his story, and has accused the cyber police of “physically assaulting and abusing” him for writing a story on “cyberbullying”.

While questioning Auqib about his story that he wrote for a Delhi based news website Article 14, the journalist alleged that he was “slapped twice by a masked cop” at the Cyber Police Station, where he was summoned in connection with his story.

According to Auqib, who is also a member of the Kashmir Press Club, the story he wrote carried a quote of the Superintendent of Police of the Cyber Wing, Tahir Ashraf Bhatii.

“As we entered the Cargo Centre, our phones were taken. We were frisked and allowed in… I was now anxious. I could feel something was wrong. As I started walking inside the corridor, my heart beat faster,” he wrote in a first person account published by ‘Article14’.

However, the cyber police in a statement has refuted the claims of assault and said that the story was “misleading and factually incorrect”.

The “fact check” statement released by the police however gets Auqib Javeed’s name wrong.

As mentioned in his account, Auqib said when he was waiting outside the SP’s office as the cop accompanying him had gone inside, someone approached him from behind and “slapped him”.

“I heard the sounds of boots approaching, and as I turned to see who it was, a masked policeman slapped me hard on my left cheek. He did sound like a local. ‘Kis liye aaya hai tu (why have you come?),’ he demanded. Once I recovered from the shock of the slap, I said, ‘SP saab has called me’. He slapped me hard again and left,” Auqib wrote.

“I somehow and vaguely rationalised this assault as the cost of doing journalism in Kashmir. I was not the first to be intimidated. Others have had cases filed against them,” he mentioned in his first-hand account.

Auqib said he wanted to know under what law he was summoned by the SP of Cyber Police and verbally abused and slapped by the cops.

“I am uncertain about what will happen. I write this in great fear. I could be called in again, beaten or worse. Anything is possible in Kashmir. But I am certain about one thing: I stand by my story,” he wrote.

In the meantime, Cyber police while admitting that the journalist was called to the cyber station, issued a statement refuting the allegations made by the journalist.

“On 17.09.2020, it was reliably learnt that one story captioned ‘The real Cyber Bully: Police in Kashmir Question Kashmir Twitter’ was published on Article-14, an online news portal. In the story, the writer had depicted a misleading picture with incorrect detail. The headline and the picture (of the cyber police) with some of the content were factually incorrect, hence misleading,” the statement reads.

It further said the journalist admitted that he had no knowledge about the functioning and establishment of the Cyber Police Station in Kashmir and “regretted for publishing incorrect/misleading content”.

“The allegation of excesses by police officials/officer published subsequently by ‘Article-14’ and other social media handle are misleading and factually incorrect, hence refuted,” the statement added.

However, reacting to the episode, journalists reporting from Jammu and Kashmir have expressed concern over the “assault” on the journalist.

The Editor-in-Chief and founder of The Wire, Sidharth Varadarajan said that cyber police cannot send email pointing out this “ridiculously trivial matter”.

“So instead of new police building the old building was shown by @Article14live and for this @Tahir_A summons the reporter? @kashmirpolice cyber head can’t send email pointing out this ridiculously trivial matter? Who will buy this drivel, drafted to justify his abuse of power?, (sic),” Varadarajan tweeted.

Another Journalist Shams Irfan lauded the journalist for his bravery to speak up and put things on the record.

“It was really brave of @AuqibJaveed to speak up and put things on the record. His bravery will inspire and give strength to all of us. #JournalismIsNotACrime,” Irfan wrote on his twitter handle.

Journalist M Junaid asked the cyber police that why the journalist was interrogated and castigated the wing for not letting to report about intimidation.

“So you called him in for using picture of a wrong building! Was the story about architecture of police buildings? Even if the article did use an inaccurate picture, why did you “interrogate” him? It seems you were hell bent on proving the journalist’s point about intimidation!,” he wrote.

Senior journalist and novelist Waheed Mirza said that summoning journalist to police stations must be stopped in Kashmir.

“Any other place in the world where journalists are summoned to police stations to explain their reportage? It seems to be a routine affair in Kashmir and it must stop,” Mirza said.

Another journalist Majid Maqbool wrote: “So who slapped @AuqibJaveed twice then? Does this mean he slapped himself inside a police station!  Such intimidation is dismissed as “allegation of excesses”. The times we live in! #Kashmir.”

Meanwhile, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) has expressed anguish and pain over the reported abuse of journalist Auqib Javed by the police, managing the cyber cell in Srinagar.

In a statement, KEG said that Auqib, an accredited journalist, had been summoned over a story that was published by an on-line news portal in Delhi. The Guild said though the responsibility of the report published rests mostly with the publisher, the raw deal that Auqib Javed got post-summoning does not suit any decision-maker.

“Auqib, in his first-hand account, published by the website has said that he was slapped and abused. He also said that on the basis of the phone call, from the cyber cell, the website editor did acknowledge certain issues with the report and rectified it right away. Even if there could have been issues with the report, the reporter and the website were morally bound to rectify it, if any,” the statement added.

KEG has maintained throughout that the reporters, per se, lack a direct stake holding in a happening beyond reporting it for the society. Reporters’ role and that of the larger media is mostly that of an unbiased postman. However, it is tragic that every time, there is an issue; it is the messenger that is under attack.

Yet again, the KEG is urging the authorities to avoid making media a casualty of a situation in which media lacks a role other than record-keeping.

“Kashmir media including the newspapers published in Jammu and Kashmir and the professionals reporting for diverse media within and outside the country are professional, objective and very well experienced. Making media a deliberate victim does not augur well for the larger society and does not suit the democratic polity either,” KEG added.

In this regard, Kashmir Press Club has also condemned the behaviour of the police towards Aquib Javaid.

In a statement, the KPC spokesperson said that as per the journalist’s account which has been published today he was slapped by a ‘masked’ policeman. Aquib also mentions that he was abused during this time.

The club feels this behaviour towards a journalist is highly condemnable. Hitting, slapping or abusing a Journalist in connection with a story he or she has written cannot be accepted in any society and goes against the freedom of the press, the statement said.

We hope the higher-ups in the police department thoroughly inquire into this matter. We also urge the LG of JK to look into these issues of difficulties faced by the journalists while performing their professional duties in Kashmir valley, it mentioned.

The statement added that summons to reporters by the police for their stories has become a routine practice in Kashmir now. The club demands that an end to this practice.

The LG’s administration should work out a mechanism so that a conducive atmosphere is available for journalists to deliver their duties without fear and reprisals.

 

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