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February 20, 2018 - Updated on March 13, 2018

RSF urges New Delhi court to free Kashmiri photojournalist

Without the reporting of journalists such as Kamran Yousuf (right), it would be impossible to know what is going on in the Kashmir Valley (photos: Kamran Yousuf - Archives).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Kamran Yousuf, a Kashmiri photojournalist who has been held for the past six months and is due to appear before a New Delhi court tomorrow for a decision on his bail application.

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Update: A National Investigation Agency special court released Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf on bail at the end of a hearing yesterday, on 12 March. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails this decision and calls on the authorities to drop all charges against Yousuf.

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Arrested on 5 September for allegedly participating in a demonstration in Kashmir, the 23-year-old Kamran Yousuf is facing a possible death sentence on spurious charges for trying to cover one of the world’s most secret conflicts.


A charge sheet produced last week by the National Investigation Agency, India’s counter-terrorism agency, claims that Yousuf is not a “real journalist/stringer by profession” because he only covered “anti-national” activities and never performed his “moral duty” as a journalist to cover “developmental activity” or the “inauguration of [a] hospital or school building.”


“It is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The contradictory nature of the charges clearly shows that Kamran Yousuf is being used as a scapegoat in order to intimidate journalists who try to document the situation in Kashmir.”


“The authorities must free him at once and, above all, they need to understand that it is not the job of journalists to relay their propaganda. As a result of the constraints on press freedom, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is in the process of becoming a new Tibet, a black hole for news and information.”


A quick look at Yousuf’s Instagram page suffices to show that this photojournalist has covered all sorts of news in a region that, without independent press photographers, would be completely cut off from the world.


Stringing for such media as the Greater Kashmir newspaper and the Gulistan News TV channel from his base in Pulwama, a town 40 km south of Srinagar, he has covered both police activities and attacks by rebel groups. Recognized by his colleagues for his professionalism, he was listed among Kashmir’s nine most promising photographers two week before his arrest.


Arrested by the state police on the pretext that he participated in a protest in which stones were thrown at the security forces, he was formally charged on 18 January with “sedition, criminal conspiracy and attempting to wage war against India.” The last of these charges carries a possible death sentence.


Partly as a result of the repeated violations of the freedom to inform in the Kashmir Valley, India is ranked no higher than 136th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.