Three journalists were allegedly beaten up by a senior police officer in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Thursday while they were covering the District Development Council (DDC) polls. The Kashmir Press Club (KPC) has asked the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) to “take action against the officer”.
“We were at a polling station where no vote was allowed to be cast till 8.30 a.m. despite the polling time of 7 a.m. This we tried to raise with Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sandeep Choudhary, who objected to our presence. Without any reason, I and two other colleagues were slapped by the officer, pushed into a police vehicle and detained in the Srigufwara police station,” journalist Mudasir Qadri, who works with News-18, said.
Two other journalists allegedly beaten up were identified as Fayaz Lolu, of ETV Bharat, and Junaid Rafiq of TV 9. The journalists said they were detained for one-and-a-half-hours in the police station.
A police spokesperson said that around 8.30 a.m., a minor stone-pelting incident took place in the hypersensitive village of Liwar, Anantnag, when miscreants tried to dissuade voters from participating in the election. “The situation was aggravated with the arrival of some mediapersons.To bring the situation under control and to instil confidence among the voters, the mediapersons were taken away from the village and let go after a brief period. The removal of the mediapersons brought the situation under control,” said the police.
He said a First Information Report under Sections 147, 336 and 307 of the IPC had been registered on the stone pelting incident.
The journalists alleged that their equipment was seized by the police “but was returned later in the day”.
“One of our colleagues, Junaid, complained of breathlessness in the police station. He was shifted to a local hospital where his oxygen saturation was reading below 70 (the normal level is 90) and he was put on oxygen supply. He is stable now,” Mr. Qadri said.
The KPC and the Kashmir Editors Guild condemned the incident and called for a “thorough inquiry” into it.
“We hope strict action is taken against those found guilty in this act perpetrated in utter disregard of the freedom of the press. We urge the Chief Electoral Officer to take note of such incidents and initiate action against the concerned police official,” a KPC spokesperson said in a statement.
The KPC also urged the authorities “to ensure an enabling atmosphere for the free and fair functioning of the media in Kashmir”.
Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, in a tweet, said, “Three journalists thrashed by security forces in south Kashmir today after interviewing a PAGD (Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration) candidate who wasn’t allowed to cast his vote. Everything and anything that involves stating the truth is being criminalised in J&K.”
The National Conference and the Congress also condemned the police action. “The incident is an attack on the freedom of the press. Strict action should be taken against those responsible,” J&K Congress president G.A. Mir said.