Muzzling the press: Journalists attacked again by Police in Srinagar

By Raqib Hameed Naik,

Srinagar:  For journalists in Kashmir, there seems no end to harassment and thrashings at the hands of security forces, despite the many promises made regarding their safety by the state government. Take the latest case of Thursday March 16.

Valley-based journalists had gone to cover the attempted joint press conference of three separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik at Hyderpora in uptown Srinagar. What followed shocked the journalist community.

“I  was present on the spot. A police driver tried to trample the scribes under his rakshak (police vehicle). As a result, the foot of Mubashir Khan of Greater Kashmir came under the vehicle and he was badly injured,”  said Farooq Javed Khan, the president of the Kashmir Press Photographers Association.

(Photo Courtesy Kashmir Life)

In the commotion that followed, AFP photographer Tawseef Mustafa was caught by a police officer, who went on to attempt to strangulate him and threatened the photographer of dire consequences.

The photos of the incident have gone viral wherein one can easily identify the police officer strangulating the journalist.

Soon after the incident, the journalist fraternity in Srinagar held a protest demonstration inside the press colony and vehemently condemned the brute use of force on journalist time and again.

Importantly, the three separatist faction had called for a meeting on Thursday. The moment they tried to address the press conference, the police swung into action and arrested them. This is when police used force on journalists who were performing their professional duties.

The photographers, who are part of the highly dedicated and disciplined press corps, were waiting outside the venue. When the three leaders came out, and police started arresting them, the photographers started documenting the process. This was the time when cops deployed on the spot objected to their action and started marshalling them.

Condemning the incident, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) said that there are clear photo and video evidences offering a clear detail of the police assault.

“We have taken a strong exception to the misuse of power for muzzling the media. This has, unfortunately, been a routine than an exception. Last time, while photographers were covering an event in Bejebehara, cops actually fired a projectile on one of them outside the hospital gate. The person spent many days in the hospital because of a broken arm,” KEG said.

“Given the frequency with which the police is abusing its authority to restrict the role and responsibility of the media, KEG is seeking an intervention of the government at the highest level to ensure that state’s principal arm does not exhibit an abnormal growth,” they added.

The role played by the coalition government of BJP and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir in curbing press coverage has been drawn into question since last year.

The state police forces had cracked down on local newspapers in 2016 by seizing newspaper print copies and detaining the staff of various printing outlets and later banning a newspaper Kashmir Reader for months altogether.