The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) on Tuesday expressed serious concern at the alleged attack by the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on two photo-journalists here on August 19. Both suffered serious injuries.
Senior officers also threatened a reporter, seeking information from the police on what transpired, with dire consequences.
Mexican photojournalist Narciso Contreras, working with U.S.-based press agency Zuma, was detained in the Nowhatta area here on August 19. He was allegedly chased from the scene of a confrontation between political demonstrators and security forces and forcibly taken away from a house where he took shelter. He was taken to a police station, brutally beaten up and reportedly warned not to publish his photographs. He has also reported losing a large sum of money during his arrest and “torture.”
Showkat Shafi, a local freelance photographer, who often contributes to international news agencies, was detained while covering the same demonstration. He too was taken to the local police station and beaten up.
Both were released after being held for nearly five hours. They have since been admitted to a hospital here and are undergoing treatment.
Later that day, Wasim Khalid, a reporter with an English newspaper, was threatened with “unimaginable” consequences if he sought to pursue the story of the photojournalists' arrest and beating. “We join our colleagues in Kashmir in calling upon the local authorities to investigate this latest atrocity on the practice of journalism in the State,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
“The testimony of the two journalists who were attacked has to be taken and action initiated immediately against the policemen responsible. The IFJ has expressed concerns several times in the last three years over the hazards journalists face in Kashmir. A clear signal has to be given from the highest level of the political leadership in the State that this manner of attack on journalists performing their duties will not be tolerated,” the statement said.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also condemned the incident. “By directly attacking journalists covering these clashes, the police are trying to suppress coverage of the events taking place in Srinagar,” it said. “We urge the Indian government to order an immediate halt to this outright persecution of journalists. The authorities must allow journalists to cover demonstrations and must protect them from any violence that could be directed against them.”
Reporters Without Borders also condemned the suspension of a religious programme on 92.7 Big FM, a privately-owned radio station based in Srinagar, without prior warning on August 17. The programme, targeting young people and dealing with social issues, was presented by Mohammad Umar Farooq, a religious leader and chairman of a Hurriyat Conference faction.
“If the order came from a higher level than the Jammu and Kashmir State government, an explanation must be provided,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It would be unacceptable if the federal government interfered — covertly and without giving any reasons — in the programming of the only privately-owned radio station broadcasting from Srinagar.”