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Journalists in Kashmir allege attacks, harassment by cops

Summons and harassment to journalists to Police's counter-insurgency centre (Cargo) in Srinagar has become a routine exercise

Tuesday February 11, 2020 7:11 AM, IANS

Kashmir Press Club

Srinagar: The Kashmir Press Club on Monday convened an urgent meeting to discuss physical attacks, threats and intimidation of journalists in Kashmir by J&K Police.

The meeting in which representatives of all journalists associations took part noted with concern that from the first day since Article 370 was removed on August 5 last year, the government is not enabling journalists and media to operate freely from the Kashmir Valley.

"This is evident from the prolonged six-month Internet shutdown in the region since August 5. As if that was not enough, physical attacks, threats and summons are being employed by security agencies to intimidate journalists. In fact, the summons and harassment to journalists to Police's counter-insurgency centre (Cargo) in Srinagar has become a routine exercise," a statement by the Kashmir Press Club said.

"The harassment and questioning of journalists in Kashmir on flimsy grounds by the Jammu and Kashmir Police for their work is in fact a damning verdict on the appalling condition in which media is operating," the statement said.

According to the statement the restrictions on the Internet and forcibly seeking undertakings from news organisations for allowing limited Internet access, constant surveillance by police and physical attacks and summons all are the tools designed and aimed to ensure only the government-promoted version is heard outside.

The meeting on Monday made it clear that journalists are within their rights to report about the happenings from Kashmir impartially and truthfully.

The statement said the Kashmir Press Club joined by all journalist bodies in Kashmir asked the government to stop the practice of summons and attacks on journalists. Being the Fourth Estate, they said, the government should ensure freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in the Constitution instead of muzzling the press.

Giving details of the journalists' "harassment" in Kashmir the statement said :

"On August 14, 2019, Irfan Amin Malik was picked up from his residence in Tral and let go next day without any reason. On the same day, government forces barged into my house and detained me. I was kept inside the police station for a night. My family reached media facilitation centre where they along with media briefed government about my detention and then finally I was released," said M.R. Irfan.

On September 1, 2019 senior journalist Peerzada Ashiq who works for The Hindu was summoned to Kothi Bagh Police Station where he was questioned and pressurized to reveal the sources of his story. "I was asked to reveal my sources, who shared official data on detentions with the newspaper," Ashiq said.

In November, a freelance photojournalist Muzamil Mattoo was beaten up in downtown Srinagar while covering Khojje Digar prayers.

On December 17, 2019, two journalists, Azaan Javaid (The Print) and Anees Zargar (Newsclick) were beaten up by police in full public view in Srinagar while covering a protest. Despite assurances by the police, no action was initiated against the accused cops.

They said the police officer who was part of the team who thrashed them explicitly said, "Why did you carry stories against me?" referring to stories filed earlier.

On November 30, Bashaarat Masood (Indian Express) and Hakeem Irfan (Economic Times) were summoned to Cargo where they were grilled by police officials over their stories. The duo said that they were asked to reveal their sources and how they manage to get the documents.

On December 23, Masood of Indian Express and Safwat Zargar of Scroll were stopped by police at Handwara while they were on an assignment. They were taken to the office of Superintendent of Police Handwara. They were questioned about the story and told that by doing the story they are trying to provoke the situation.

Naseer Ganai, who works with Outlook magazine along with a journalist Haroon Nabi was summoned to Cargo on February 8 where they were questioned for reporting a statement of JKLF which stands banned by the government.

"I was asked to reveal the email ID from which I had got the statement," said Naseer.

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