Kashmiri journalists working in most difficult circumstances
Srinagar, May 03 (KMS): Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most dangerous places of the world where people associated with the press and media are performing their professional duties in the most difficult circumstances.
According to a report compiled by Raies Ahmed Mir, editor KMS, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, today, nineteen journalists have been confirmed as being killed while performing their duties during the Kashmiris’ ongoing liberation struggle since 1989. They include Shabbir Ahmed Dar, Mushtaq Ali, Muhammad Shaban Wakeel, a woman scribe Aasiya Jeelani, Ghulam Muhammad Lone, Ghulam Rasool Azad, Pervez Muhammad Sultan, Shujaat Bukhari, Ali Muhammad Mahajan, Syed Ghulam Nabi, Altaf Ahmed Fakhtoo, Saidan Shafi, Tariq Ahmed, Abdul Majid Butt, Javed Ahmed Mir, PN Handoo, Muhammad Shafi, Pradeeep Bhatia and Ashok Sodhi.
A renowned journalist, Sahil Maqbool passed away in March 2018. He was kept in illegal detention by the authorities for several years for highlighting the Indian atrocities in the territory. He was subjected to severe torture during incarceration.
The report said that in the occupied territory, almost routinely, the journalists face manhandling, abductions, murder attempts and death threats by the Indian troops and all this has made their everyday work extremely difficult. It revealed that the Kashmiri journalists and many other scribes while performing their professional duties were roughed up, injured and detained by the troops on fake charges in the territory.
Indian police and sleuths of National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested a photojournalist, Kamran Yousuf, on 4th March in 2017 and two journalists, Aasif Sultan and Aqib Javeed Hakim on August 2018 for highlighting the brutalities of the Indian troops during pro-freedom demonstrations in Pulwama. Kamran was later shifted to New Delhi. He was released on bail on 14th March 2018 from Delhi’s Tihar Jail.
Another journalist Qazi Shibli was booked under black law, Public Safety Act (PSA) on 8 August 2019 and was released on 23 April 2020.
The illegally detained 32-year-old Kashmiri journalist, Aasif Sultan, featured among this month’s list in 2019 of the 10 ‘Most Urgent’ threats to press freedom across the globe. The list is released monthly by the One Free Press Coalition, which was founded by a dozen news organizations including TIME, with the goal of defending journalists under attack.
The Indian police physically assaulted reporters and photojournalists including Shah Irshad, Fida Hussain, Aman Farooq, Manzoor Zahoor, Suhail Hameed, Younis Khaliq, Aqib Javed Hakim, Farooq Shah, Shah Jahangir, Fayaz Lolu, Deen Imran, Junaid Lalu, Aijaz Ahmad Dar, Sajjad Hameed, Abdul Hameed, Tauseef Mustafa, Danish Ismail, Aman Farooq, Umer Meraaj, Habib Naqash, Merajuddin, Younis Khaliq, Aasif Qureshi, Arshad Hussain Shah, Manzoor Mir, Qazi Irshad, Khan Yasrub, Bilal Bahadur, Mubashir Khan, Farooq Javaid Khan, Umar Sheikh and Shoaib Masoodi in 2017-18. These journalists were also not allowed by the authorities to perform their professional duties during cordon and search operations in the occupied territory.
A freelance French journalist, Comiti Paul Edward, was arrested by the Indian police when he was video-graphing the pellet victims in Srinagar city on International Human Rights Day (December 10) in 2017. Comiti Paul Edward later in an interview said that the Kashmiris were facing the worst kind of military repression and human rights violations at the hands of Indian troops and India did not want these happenings in Kashmir to be known internationally. In his documentary released in 2018, Paul Comiti exposed genocide of Kashmiris by Indian forces.
Annie Gowan, Bureau chief of The Washington Post for India, was restricted by the authorities in a house in Srinagar on 31st July 2018 and was not permitted to move in the territory for reporting.
A driver associated with English daily Greater Kashmir, Bilal Ahmed, and another employee, Farooq Ahmed Parray, were dragged out of the vehicle and beaten up by the troops at Safa Kadal in Srinagar on 13th April 2018 when they were on way back home.
The journalists including Waseem Andrabi, Nisar-ul-Haq, Junaid Gulzar and Mir Burhan received injuries in their faces and necks when the troops fired pellets during a cordon and search operation at Heff Shirmal in Shopian district on January 11, 2019.
In 2020 Indian police beat up and harassed Kashmiri journalist including Waseem Andrabi, Sanam Aijaz, Naseer Ahmad Ganie,Haroon Nabi, Kamran Yousuf,Qisar Mir,Qayoom Khan , Kamran Raashid Bhat, Wasim Khalid and Mushtaq Ganaie while three Kashmiri journalists including Gowhar Geelani, Peerzada Ashiq and Massarat Zahra were booked in 2019 under strict laws for their writings and social media the procession and update posts.
Indian police used brute force and thrashed Fayaz Ahmad Lolu, Mudasir Qadri, Junaid Rafiq, Suhail Khan, Ashiq Mir and Mudasir Ahmed when they were doing professional jobs in South and North Kashmir areas.
Three Kashmiri journalists including Gowhar Geelani, Peerzada Ashiq and Massarat Zahra were booked under strict laws for their writings and social media posts in the last month alone. “Kashmiri journalists are called to police stations and are questioned and harassed for hours,” the report said.
Although India has snatched every right including right to freedom of press in the occupied territory, Kashmiri journalists are determined to fight India’s assault on media freedom. Local journalist bodies have called upon the international community to come to the rescue of Kashmiri journalists. Victimization of journalists in Kashmir has increased manifold since Aug 5, 2019.
The Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Estates Department locked and sealed offices of Kashmir News Service and The Kashmir Times in Srinagar in October 2020.
In this year 2021 Indian authorities harassed and tried to use false and fabricated charges on a reporter Sajad Gul in Bandipore, while Indian police assaulted several photojournalists and reporters including Saqib Majeed, Safaft Farooq and Qisar Mir when they were doing their professional work during anti-India protests in Srinagar and Pulwama.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has said that the government-control through advertisement revenue is prevalent in occupied Kashmir and the media is being pressurized to toe the official line or face financial insecurity. In a report titled “Kashmir’s Media in Peril: A Situation Report” released in Brussels, the IFJ said, “The information is controlled by government and security forces” and among other challenges are “out-of-bounds areas, telephone and internet shutdowns; no system in place to get official version of incidents from police or security agencies”.
On the other hand, mobile internet and social networking websites are blocked by the authorities during violent operations and after every killing of youth in the occupied territory.
It is worth mentioning here that during the mass uprising triggered by the extrajudicial killing of popular youth leader, Burhan Wani, by the Indian troops on 8th July 2016, the Kashmir Valley witnessed the most sweeping information blackout.
Indian authorities banned newspaper publication in the occupied territory and police raided media houses and also shut down printing presses of Srinagar-based newspapers. The authorities had banned the publication of English daily Kashmir Reader for over three months while after the imposition of President Rule in occupied Kashmir 2018, the occupation authorities stopped the advertisements to the valley-based newspapers.
(Report compiled by Raies Ahmed Mir)