Kashmir journalist assaulted, harassed by Cyber Police, for article on cyberbullying
Auqib Javeed was summoned on September 18, and alleges he was slapped by a “masked policeman”, then questioned for 5 hours
Auqib Javeed, a Srinagar-based Kashmiri journalist had recently written an article on cyber bullying, or the alleged intimidation of social media users who posted anything seen as being critical of the government. His article seems to have been proven right in the worst way. Javeed, an independent journalist who has written for major publications, has said he fears for his life following assault and harassment, allegedly by Kashmir’s cyber police.
The report on cyberbullying he had filed was published by news and analysis portal Article 14, and had stated that “dozens of Twitter accounts in Kashmir are silent after users were interrogated by the police about posts on Article 370, the Internet ban and an alleged extra-judicial killing. Police say these users were accused of ‘cyberbullying’. Those summoned were allowed to go—after promising not to criticise the government.” It was published last week, and had recorded incidents from August, quoted the social media users who recalled their trauma.
However, Javeed himself was summoned by the Cyber Wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police on September 18. He alleged that a “masked policeman slapped him twice”. Javeed later took to social media and shared his ordeal in detail. “I am uncertain about what will happen now. I write this in great fear. I could be called in again, beaten or worse. But I am certain about one thing: I stand by my story,” he posted. He said Srinagar’s cyber police kept him for five hours, he recalled his ordeal in another article as well.
He said the facts he had reported on were not new and had been covered extensively by The Kashmir Walla, a Kashmir-based website. It was reported that the cyber police had probed around 300 social-media accounts, calling them a “cyber-bullying group”. “I tracked down some of these users, who on condition of anonymity said they had been questioned, hectored by police and left off only after promising not to issue posts against the government and its policies,” he said.
He had also sought the police version and spoke to the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the Cyber Wing, Tahir Ashraf Bhatii, who “politely” denied the users’ claims of being summoned to Srinagar’s Cyber Police Station for “political tweets”. The SP said: “We are living in a democratic country, and people have every right to criticise the government and that is how democracy works.”
The story, “The Real Cyber Bully: Police In Kashmir Question Twitter Users”, was however published with a 2012 photo of “Cargo”, a former police interrogation centre, which previously housed the cyber police, he stated. He went with two other journalists and alleged that “a masked policeman slapped” him on the face.
According to the journalist, the slap shocked and numbed him and once he met SP Bhatti he was asked why he wrote that cyber police were bullying people? The SP also demanded to know a picture of the Cargo center was used, “when it was not the cyber police station,” wrote Javeed, who was also accused of writing a “concocted” story by the police. “I felt myself starting to shiver, as the SP continued his verbal assault. I told him again that the story was fair and based on facts and that decisions about headline and photographs were taken by the editor,” he writes, adding that he was then asked to call the editor by the police.
Article 14, editor and co-founder Samar Halarnkar, has added a note in Javeed’s article to state the following: “The SP first said the photo was wrong and photoshopped. He was told if there was a problem with the photo, we would be happy to correct ourselves and acknowledge the error. He then said the story was fake and my colleague had admitted it. He said this three times in the course of the conversation. While telling Bhatii that he had been quoted extensively in the story and that we would nevertheless be happy to carry what he perceived as fake, he hung up.”
Meanwhile, the Cyber Police issued a press note stating that the photo was incorrect. They also do not approve of the headline, and some of the content. As expected, they deny all allegations of police excesses.
Javeed recalled that it was only after a “five-hour ordeal,” and after he “was asked to sign a letter” that his phone was returned. He alleged that his phone may have been tampered with. Javeed has said the experience has left him, “traumatised, anxious and nervous. I was awake most of that night, haunted by the physical assault and their abuse.”
“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 stated.
Javeed has received many messages of support, especially from journalists in Kashmir, many of whom have their own stories to tell of being summoned by the authorities for multiple reasons.
Courtesy : Sabrang