Scribes question ‘NIA bid to muzzle Press’

| | Srinagar

A day before a Kashmiri photojournalist’s bail plea is likely to be decided in a Delhi court, two journalist bodies have taken strong exception to the chargesheet filed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) and its effort to muzzle freedom of press in Kashmir.

Photojournalist Kamran Yousuf was taken into custody by NIA on September 5, 2017 on charges of being a stone-pelter. His arrest was part of a major crackdown by the NIA in Kashmir to unearth alleged funding to separatist groups to perpetuate subversive activities. The NIA began the crackdown after several separatist leaders were caught in a string operation admitting that they received funds from across the border to fuel anti-India public campaign in Kashmir. The separatists say the footage was doctored. Several separatist leaders including Nayeem Khan, Aftab Hilali, Farooq Ahmad Dar, Altaf Shah, Ayaz Akbar and prominent businessman Zahoor Watali have been arrested and lodged in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

However, Kamran Yousuf’s arrest raised many eyebrows. Yousuf was working from restive Pulwama district in south Kashmir and contributing pictures to several news organizations. Last week, the NIA presented chargesheet against Yousuf, which said that he was not trained as a journalist and refrained from covering official functions. The definition of a journalist suggested by NIA baffled the journalist community in Kashmir and outside. 

On Tuesday, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG), an organisation of the editors of the newspapers published in Kashmir reacted to the “new definition”.

“If the cops are supposed to define the roles and responsibilities of the journalists, which manage the fourth pillar of democracy, the universities that train thousands of journalists in a year across India must be locked,” KEG said in a statement. Re-defining journalism is usually been seen as an effort by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes and not democracies,” it said. The KEG reiterated that Kamran Yousuf “has been a news photographer who was freelancing with various media outlets”. The editors sought his early release and have continuously insisted that Yousuf requires a fair trial. “It has been a long time since Yousuf’s arrest that the investigators have probed almost all angles of his supposed involvement.



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