Journalists attacked in Kashmir while covering elections

Reporters Without Borders condemns attacks on journalists in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir during coverage of parliamentary elections that are taking in stages from 7 April to 12 May.

Sheikh Inayet, a local correspondent for Times Now TV, and Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, a reporter for the Sharherbeen Times, were covering a local party’s election meeting in Bandipora on 19 April when they were attacked and badly injured by members of the elite Special Operations Group (SOG), as well as police officers and reservists.

Javed Dar, a photo-journalist working for Xinhua News, was attacked and injured by police in the town of Kulgam on 24 April, while the windows of the car of the journalist accompanying him, Farooq Javed Khan, were smashed.

Shabnam Fayz of Munsif TV and Aadil Umar Shah of Voice TV had to be hospitalized after being beaten by police while covering protests in Pulwama, a town to the west of Srinagar, on 24 April.

“We call on the central government to shed light on these attacks and to do what is necessary to arrest and punish those responsible,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “The Kashmiri authorities must stop obstructing the work of journalists and stop controlling the flow of information in the region.

“In view of the electoral tension in Kashmir, it is vital that the authorities encourage a transparent election and allow a democratic debate. Kashmir must cease to be a lawless region in which journalists keep on having to expose themselves to danger.”

Inayet told Reporters Without Borders: “We were surrounded by a score of police officers who began to beat us with their gun butts and canes as soon as they heard that we were Times Now journalists. They also took our cameras and damaged them.”

Bhat said: “The police beat us unconscious. My back and arm were badly injured and I am unable to do my regular work.”

Srinagar journalists staged a sit-in on 3 April in protest against the low number of press accreditations issued by the authorities, which restricted coverage of the candidate registration process.

India is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.