The recent interrogation of editor-in-chief of a leading daily in Kashmir, Fayaz Kaloo of Greater Kashmir (GK) by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has alarmed journalists across the valley. If one goes by the reports, Kaloo was questioned for six days at NIA’s headquarters about the articles which appeared in his newspaper during the six-month unrest in 2016, after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
He was reportedly asked about his sources of income, properties and trips abroad. He was also questioned about the sources of funds for his organisation which runs the Urdu daily Kashmir Uzma, English weekly Kashmir Ink and Urdu weekly Nawa-e-Jhelum. NewsClick approached Kaloo to find out more about his interrogation but he declined to comment. He is the president of Kashmir Editors Guild and is also the owner of Greater Kashmir Communications Private Limited.
This episode has sent ripples across the media fraternity in Kashmir. Journalists are taking it as an early sign of an impending doom.
“The harassment of journalists in Kashmir is not happening for the first time. But yes, it has substantially increased in Modi’s regime. This is very unfortunate. When we entered this profession, we knew that we will have to face this and we are here facing this. What more can I say? And yes, please write that I can’t tell you my name or divulge much as NIA has warned me not to do so,” said a journalist requesting anonymity.
Also read: Illegal Censorship of Kashmir Media
However, GK has not been targeted for the first time. In February, the government abruptly stopped giving advertisements to Greater Kashmir and another prominent daily, Kashmir Reader. This step impacted the dailies substantially, for whom government advertisements was a big source of income. The salaries of the employees suffered too.
“Greater Kashmir resorted to self-censorship after the advertisements were stopped. The salaries of the employees were decreased yet the employees showed their commitment towards journalism by working,” said another journalist, requesting anonymity.
After the series of harassment, including the recent midnight raid and arrest of Editor-in-chief of Urdu daily Aafaq Ghulam, Jeelani Qadri, the journalists in Kashmir are consciously toeing the line.
“Newspapers have softened their stance fearing ban on government advertisements. You see, its not just about the newspaper but also the employees linked to the paper who have families to look after. The media here is suppressed and that is a clear fact in front of everyone,” the journalist said.
Speaking to Citizen, editor of an English daily recalled his meeting with the top security officer who “informed him that his paper was showing the government in a bad light and giving unnecessary coverage to separatists and Pakistan”.
NIA has been proactively targeting journalists over their articles. In July 2018, freelance contributor to Kashmir Ink, Auqib Javeed was summoned and questioned about his interview of a separatist leader and founder of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Asiya Andrabi.
Also read: Crackdown on Journalists Continues in Kashmir, Urdu Daily Editor Arrested
Another journalist, Aasif Sultan of the Kashmir Narrator, has been imprisoned since the last 10 months, after he wrote a cover story about the slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani.
“They are trying to silence us. We are foretold on what to report and how to report. This is not what journalism means,” said another journalist.