Journalist Fahad Shah, the founding Editor of The Kashmir Walla
Journalist Fahad Shah, the founding Editor of The Kashmir Walla

SRINAGAR — Police have yet again summoned journalist Fahad Shah, Editor of ‘The Kashmir Walla’, in connection with a gunfight in Srinagar.

On Friday, Fahad Shah was summoned by police in connection with the stories that The Kashmir Walla published while covering the gunfight in Nawakadal neighbourhood of downtown Srinagar on May 19, 2020 in which two militants including Junaid Sehrai, the son of Hurriyat Conference Chairman, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, were killed and 19 residential houses were damaged.

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On July 09, 2020, The Kashmir Walla’s Editor received a formal summon from Police Station Safakadal, saying that “your presence is necessary for the purpose of enquiry into the offence committed under Section 147, 307, 109, 501, 505 IPC”.

Earlier also, Fahad Shah was questioned on May 20, 2020 for over four hours by senior officials of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, who alleged that The Kashmir Walla’s coverage of the gunfight at Nawakadal had “defamed” the police. At that time, The Kashmir Walla’s Editor had explained to the police officers that the coverage was based on undisputed facts, eyewitness accounts, interviews of the civilian population, and also the police. These facts were also documented on video. After that four-hour-long questioning by senior police officers, Fahad was allowed to go.

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We also spoke to Fahad Shah, who said that after recording his statement and presenting his version at police station, he was allowed to go and now he is back to his office. “We portrayed ground reality and that is it. If portraying ground reality is a crime, then we are culprits. Whatever we covered was the account of eyewitnesses,” he said, adding that they even carried the version of police regarding that encounter.

Jammu Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, while condemning the fresh summoning of Fahad Shah, tweeted, “Browbeating Kashmiri media into submission is something which is not ingrained in our professional journalists. Do not stifle the voices of reason. Journalism is not a crime.”

The party added that this is the third such summon. “This constant scheme of intimidation only goes to establish the pattern of muzzling the vocal voices in media. Why is administration scared of journalists when everything was supposed to be better post August 05?”

In a WhatsApp Group run by journalists, a scribe in response to the fresh summon wrote: “Since this concerns each and every one of us and is going to happen to each and every one of us, sooner or later. I thought I should share it here.”

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The Kashmir Walla, in a statement, asked authorities to immediately stop this intimidation and allow them to carry on with their professional duties. It said journalism is not a crime.

Press Club of Kashmir (KPC), which has been set up to protect the ‘interests’ of journalists in Kashmir, termed the fresh summoning of Fahad Shah very unfortunate.

Shujah-ul-Haq, the KPC president, said that they have already taken up the matter with the Press Council of India which is the apex body and in fact, it has taken cognizance of the matter and have asked government to respond.

“This is not only about him (Fahad Shah), but for all journalists working in Kashmir Valley. They should be allowed to perform their professional duties freely. We have taken up the issues concerning to journalists with DGP and IGP and this fresh summon to a journalist is very unfortunate and it should not have happened,” Shujah said.

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