Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir police personnel thrashed photojournalist Kamran Yousuf while he was covering a gunfight in South Kashmir’s Pulwama area on Tuesday.
Kamran, a resident of Pulwama, said he arrived near the encounter site where security officials had laid a cordon in the vicinity to engage the militants. He was over 200 meters away from the site just outside the security perimeter.
“I clicked some pictures and then the CRPF personnel asked me and some other colleagues to leave the spot which I did. But while I was leaving, I was called back by policemen and without any provocation they started beating me up. I couldn’t run and I wanted to save my cameras from getting damaged,” Kamran said. Kamran has been a regular contributor to NewsClick.
The 25-year-old journalist was rushed to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital where he was treated for “assault and trauma.”
Ishfaq Tantray, general secretary of the Kashmir Press Club – of which Kamran is a member, condemned the assault. “The KPC has on and off taken the issue of harassment with the authorities. It is highly condemnable and we hope that the authorities take this up and bring punish the culprits,” he told NewsClick.
In 2017, Kamran was booked under draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the first journalist from the region to be booked under the law. He was released on bail after spending six months in Tihar Jail after no evidence against him was provided in the court.
The police and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been accused of using excessive force against media especially after August 5 last year with the abrogation of Article 370 and during the subsequent clampdown enforced in the region. Since then, over a dozen journalists have been beaten up on the ground in separate incidents. The authorities in the region have been accused by media groups and rights bodies of imposing severe restriction on media and hampering freedom of speech.
In April this year, the Jammu and Kashmir’ police’s cyber cell booked Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra, who won this year’s Anja Neidringhaus Courage in photojournalism award, under Section 13 of the UAPA for what they deemed as “anti-national” content on her social media profile.
A few days later the cyber police booked senior journalist Gowhar Geelani under Section 13 of the UAPA and Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, with similar charges of ‘indulging in unlawful activities through social media posts’.
Currently, 32-year-old Kashmir journalist Asif Sultan, who was awarded the Press Freedom Award by American National Press Club last year, is lodged in Srinagar’s central jail under similar charges since 2018.