Kashmiri journalist Auqib Javeed said he feared for his life after he recounted being assaulted and harassed by the region’s cyber police following a story he wrote on the intimidation of social media users critical of the government by the police, published by Article 14.
Javeed said he was summoned by the Cyber Wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police on September 18, where masked policeman slapped him twice.
Javeed’s story published by Article14 had carried a quote by Superintendent of Police of the Cyber Wing Tahir Ashraf Bhatii, who had reportedly said: “We are living in a democratic country, and people have every right to criticise the government and that is how democracy works.”
Javeed 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 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 Javeed wrote in an article recounting the assault.
Javeed 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.
The journalist said his experience with the cyber police had left him “traumatised, anxious and nervous”. “I was awake most of that night, haunted by the physical assault and their abuse,” he wrote.
“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 said.
Javeed said the SP Bhatii verbally abused him and his family and
accusated him of writing a ” fake and baseless” story.
The journalist said his phone had been taken when he arrived at the office. When the phone was returned, “I noticed two white adhesive tapes on the front and back of my phone later and realised most apps were not opening. The WhatsApp was now without a password, as was the phone. While I was at the police station, the policeman who took my phone asked me to show me the contact details of the SP in my address book, which I did. Later, I found the call record of my 20 August conversation with SP Bhatii deleted,” he said.
The cyber police issued a statement admitting that they took issue with article’s photo and headline, but denied Javeed’s allegations.
“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 read.
“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.
Article 14 responded saying, “The police now admit the only thing wrong with the story Auqib Javeed’s wrote for us was that we ran a photo of the old cyber police building. And for this he was summoned, slapped, abused & detained there for over 5 hours.”
Several other journalists extended support to Javeed and slammed the intimidation by the police.