Srinagar: The Kashmir Press Club (KPC) on Sunday strongly condemned what it called a false and motivated smear campaign against a Kashmiri journalist working for a Turkey-based international media organisation.
Baba Umar, who currently works with TRT, has written to KPC that dangerously false allegations were levelled against him in a “factually incorrect and libellous article” by the Greek City Times, a Greek lifestyle site headquartered in Sydney.
KPC said the “baseless article” was later amplified by Zee New and IANS without fact-checking or seeking the version of Baba.
“As is clear from the testimony of journalist Baba Umar and also the stories run by fact-checking websites www.altnews.in and a news portal reporting on media — News laundry, the reports against Baba Umar are factually incorrect and deliberately misleading,” the statement reads.
It said once the facts were brought to the fore by Baba Umar, the Sydney-based, hitherto unknown “lifestyle” site also issued an apology but later on carried a fresh baseless and misleading article targeting Kashmiri journalists working abroad including Baba Umar.
“Just a few days ago, Zee News ran a news piece authored by Mr Manish Shukla..in which he claimed I have been interviewed by Pieter Friedrich”, Baba Umar, who is a Senior Producer with TRT World, said in his testimony e-mailed to the Club. He said he was never interviewed by Friedrich as claimed in the article.
He said that Zee News did not even bother to check its own screengrab or watch the entire interview on YouTube which shows Friedrich had spoken with some Umar Baba, a researcher based in South Korea, and not him.
“I don’t even know Friedrich and was never ever interviewed by him,” Umar told KPC in the testimony, adding “without checking the facts, Zee News, Indian Narrative, IANS, joined by several other Indian websites ran the impugned article originally loaned from a “dubious” Greek website. “The aim of this slander is to target me and endanger me and my family,” Umar said.
“By saying I was engaged in carrying out motivated anti-India propaganda, some of the India news organisations have tried to damage my reputation, and now my family will have to live with the repercussions of such unfounded, callous, hateful and motivated news reporting that also has prejudice, anti-minority, anti-Muslim and Islamophobic undertones.”
The Club, while condemning the false labelling, demanded an unconditional apology from the Sydney-based site and urged it to pull down its ‘malicious’ content targeting the Kashmiri journalists community who have “proved their mettle by their sheer competence and upheld the highest journalistic standards over the years amid difficult circumstances.”
The Club said it expects Zee News and IANS to pull down its malicious content targeting Kashmiri journalists and issue an unconditional apology to Baba Umar and other Kashmiri journalists who are part of their fraternity.
The Club expressed solidarity with its colleagues targeted through this smear campaign including Baba Umar and reiterated its support to their right to take legal action against the “perpetrators of this fake smear campaign”.
The Club also urged the Press Council of India, Press Club of India and also the Editors Guild of India to intervene and take steps against this smear and disinformation campaign based on falsehoods targeting Kashmiri journalists as it severely endangers their lives.
The Kashmir Press Club reiterated that the Kashmiri journalists have every right to write and report in Kashmir or anywhere in the world and should not be discriminated against because of their identity.