Masrat Zahra, a Kashmiri freelance photographer, told CPJ that she faced online harassment and threats after a photograph of her, captioned with the word “mukhbir”–meaning “spy” or “army informer”–was circulated on social media around May 16, 2018.
According to news reports, militants in Jammu and Kashmir are suspected of killing people alleged to be informers for the army, which is in frequent conflict with insurgency groups in the region.
The original picture that Zahra uploaded to her Facebook page on May 15, 2018, showed the photojournalist crouching alongside Indian army forces while she was photographing an encounter between militants and Indian security forces in Kashmir’s Shopian district in early April 2018, Zahra told CPJ. About a day later, the journalist said, she started to see a screenshot of the photograph captioned with the word “mukhbir” on social media, and began to receive harassing messages.
Zahra said that she would like police to investigate and pursue legal action against the people who edited and circulated the image. The journalist told CPJ that no police station would accept a First Information Report in the incident. In India, a First Information Report must be filed before a police investigation can begin.
Zahra said she believes that the doctored photograph may have been spread because she is one of the few female photojournalists working in Kashmir. While some of the threats were gendered, most just referred to her as “mukhbir,” Zahra said. The photojournalist said she has not previously been threatened.
CPJ has documented media abuses throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In September 2017, Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf was detained by India’s National Investigation Agency for six months on sedition charges before being released on bail, according to CPJ research.