The Government of India contacted international media, such as Al Jazeera and BBC, on Saturday over their “videos on large-scale protests” in Srinagar on Friday morning, telling them that the news was “fabricated” and if they had any evidence to prove the videos were real. The news organisations however have said their videos are “genuine” and they can produce the raw footage if required.
The I&B ministry, home ministry and the Intelligence Bureau are keeping a keen watch on national and international media reporting on Kashmir and have flagged four videos and seven reports as “misleading and fake” in their reports which include those on anti-India protests in the valley and those that claim the action might spark more tensions in the valley and cause a rise in militancy.
Home ministry officials said they are awaiting a response from the foreign media outlets but so far they have not been able to produce videos. “All of them are referring to BBC Urdu videos and so far unable to produce the raw footage,” a home ministry official confirmed adding that MEA officials have been roped in to ensure than unverified videos from valley is not uploaded by any foreign media outlets.
The report that mentioned over 10,000 people in the valley took part in the protest against India on Friday morning and another that said the army had resorted to violence to counter peaceful protesters in western Srinagar are particularly being discussed. The video that seems to be of most concern to them is that of a large number of protesters marching with banners that say, “We want freedom” and “Abrogation of Article 370 is not acceptable to us” allegedly on Friday morning when the curfew was relaxed for a few hours.
MHA in a statement had denied these reports and said, “Only stray protests at Srinagar and Baramulla took place where not more than 20 people were present.” Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary BVR Subramanyam later clarified “The police has not fired a single bullet so far in last six days. The situation is calm, people are cooperative and restrictions are being relaxed to ease the situation.”
Enquiry conducted by government official further revealed that the video was first floated by Al Jazeera and then by BBC, after three hours, but it was telecast in all regional channels of BBC. The Al Jazeera report said that the protests took place in downtown Srinagar after the curfew was relaxed for people to go out and pray. Officials in Al Jazeera confirmed to ET they received calls from Indian officials “telling them that the videos were fake as per their reports” and that they should not be misleading “people in these times.”
BBC has also put out a statement refuting claims of the government.
This is not the first time Al Jazeera has rubbed the government the wrong way with regard to its reporting on J&K.
The channel was earlier suspended, and then denied an operating license last year, for its documentary on the valley which the government said was completely biased, and then for showing a map of India that showed Kashmir as a disputed zone.
In May, after the government denied to renew the channel’s license, the channel agreed to not show the UN certified map that presents Kashmir in red, as “conflict zone.” The channel, however, doesn’t use the Survey of India-certified map of India either, that shows J&K as an integral part of the country.