RSF calls for rule of law to be restored in Kashmir

After physical attacks on at least two journalists in the past few days in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in northern India, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for investigations to identify members of the security forces responsible for abuses against journalists and all other violations of freedom of information.

Muneeb Ul Islam, a photojournalist working for the Kashmir Reader and Daily Roshni newspapers, was beaten by members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Anantnag, in the west of the state, while covering unrest on 8 August.

He said that, after thrashing him, the paramilitaries used him as ahuman shield to protect themselves against the stones that youths were throwing at them, and that two stones hit him.

Mir Javid, a reporter for Kashmir News Network, a local news agency, was injured in an eye by shotgun pellets in the border district of Kupwara, in the north of the state, on 5 August. Clashes were taking place between protesters and paramilitaries at the time, but he was not near any of these clashes when the pellets were fired at him.

After being taken to a hospital near Kralgund for treatment, Javid found himself in the middle of assault on the hospital by police firing teargas grenades. He fled from the hospital to the home of a friend, where he extracted many of the pellets embedded in his body, and finally made it to a hospital in Srinagar, where his eye injury was treated.

He told several media outlets that he had also been threatened in attempt to dissuade him from covering the situation in Kupwara for Srinagar-based newspapers.

We have seen many reports, often accompanied by photos, offering a shocking insight into the aggressive actions and behaviour of the security forces towards the general public and journalists in particular, who are regarded as undesired witnesses,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

We call on the authorities to carry out investigations to identify those responsible for targeted violence against journalists who risk their lives to inform their fellow citizens. The interior ministry, which is in charge of the Central Reserve Police Force, and chief minister Mehbooba Mufti cannot turn a blind eye to these abuses, or else people will think the rule of law and democracy end at the gates to Jammu and Kashmir.

Communications have often been cut in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 8 July, when a separatist military commander, Burhan Wani, was killed in the south of the state. RSF has condemned the media blackout and harassment of local journalists by the local authorities, and has called on the Indian government to stop using security and law and order as pretexts for cracking down on the media.

India continues to languish in the bottom third (133rd of 180 countries) in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index because of the number of journalists killed in connection with their work and the impunity for crimes of violence committed against the media.

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Updated on 11.08.2016