Four photojournalists suffered injuries when the armed forces allegedly fired pellets at them in South Kashmir’s Shopian district, while they were working on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, forces reportedly launched an ambush in Shirmal to kill the trapped militants in an orchard, where most of the photojournalists and video-journalists had gone to cover the gunfight.
Soon after gunfight broke out, people protested, and as a result, clashes erupted in the area, said the locals. A group of Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) were in position pointing barrels of pellet guns and AK 47 rifles towards the protesters, it was claimed. As per reports, while heading towards the spot, the photojournalists crossed a barricade put up by the protesters.
While speaking to Newsclick, an eyewitness said that all photojournalists had raised their cameras and had shouted “press”. Despite this, the forces allegedly shot pellets towards them which left four journalists injured, and damaged their equipment as well.
The injured were identified as Waseem Andrabi, working with the Hindustan Times; Nisar-Ul-Haq, working with the local daily newspaper Rising Kashmir; Junaid Gulzar working with Kashmir Essence; and Mir Burhan working with Asian News Network.
Waseem, while speaking to Newsclick, said that he was heading towards the spot with a few journalists who were wearing vests with ‘press’ written on them ahead of him. “We raised our cameras, they saw the vests even, but still they fired multiple shots at us,” Waseem alleged.
Waseem further informed Newsclick that Nisar received pellets in his left eye, on his forehead, lips, face and neck.
Soon after the incident, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), an international body of journalists) called upon the authorities from India to conduct a full probe into the firing of pellets on journalists.
Issuing a statement on their Twitter handle, RSF said that the government forces’ “violence” against Kashmiri photojournalists is “unacceptable.”
“We call on #indian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation on this blatant attack on press freedom. #JournalismIsNotACrime,” RSF tweeted.
Condemning the attack on journalists, Jammu Kashmir Editors’ Forum urged the government to ensure safety and protection of journalists working in Kashmir, and added that “It is their constitutional and moral duty to provide a conducive environment for media persons.”
Issuing a statement regarding attack on photojournalists, Kashmir Press Photographers’ Association (KPPA) said that the photojournalists visited the encounter spot in Shopian to carry out their professional duties. “They were showered with pellets from a close range.”
“KPPA believes that the oft-repeated assault on the photojournalists is uncalled for, and employing such tactics by the government forces won’t deter us from carrying out our professional duties,” the statement said, and urged Governor Satya Pal Malik and Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, to look into the matter, and order a magisterial enquiry and strict action against the erring personnel.
Former Jammu and Kashmir CM and vice president of National Conference Omar Abdullah said that the ‘indiscriminate use of force will always be counterproductive’.
Via his Twitter handle, Omar termed the attack on journalists as ‘highly unfortunate’.
“Highly unfortunate reports about journalists injured, including some with pellet injuries, while covering clashes in South Kashmir. I condemn this incident. The indiscriminate use of force, often without any accountability, will always be counterproductive,” Omar tweeted.
This is not for the first time that journalists have faced such assault while on the field. Earlier, on October 17, 2018, at least 10 journalists were thrashed by the government forces near the site of a gunfight in Fateh Kadal area of old Srinagar, while they were on their professional duties.