Police beat two photographers covering Kashmir unrest

New York, September 27, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Saturday’s attack on photographers Rafiq Maqbool of The Associated Press, and Amin War of the national newspaper The Tribune, who were beaten by police while covering a violent demonstration in Srinagar, the summer capital of war-torn Kashmir.

Maqbool and War were photographing as many as 100 activists from the militant separatist group, the Democratic Liberation Party (DLP), on September 25, when police turned on them and started beating them with rifle butts and bamboo batons, according to Maqbool. “The police just ignored the rioters. They, instead, starting thrashing us, even though we told them we were photojournalists,” Maqbool told CPJ.

Reports from the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) confirmed the attack on the photographers. Photographs provided to CPJ clearly show where Maqbool was beaten on his back and arm.

DLP militants were in the midst of a violent rampage, targeting hotels and restaurants where young couples go out together in public, according to local news reports. The rioters broke windows and furniture, and attacked patrons at the businesses, The Associated Press reported.

IANS quoted one masked activist as he dragged a waiter out of a restaurant as saying that the businesses had been warned to shut down because they had become “centers for vulgarity in public life.”

Maqbool and Amin received medical treatment for their injuries. The deputy general of the local police has ordered an official inquiry into the attack on the journalists, according to local press reports.

“It is simply unacceptable for police to attack members of the press who were doing their jobs. We call on authorities to ensure a thorough investigation into this completely unjustified attack, and to make the results public,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

The DLP, founded by the former hijacker Hashim Qureshi, has previously threatened beauty parlors, movie theaters, and other businesses it considers “obscene and vulgar.”

Journalists are frequently targeted by government security forces and separatist groups in Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority population and is claimed by both India and Pakistan. Earlier this year, Maqbool was harassed and beaten at a police checkpoint in March when security officers saw his cameras in his car. A freelance journalist, Asiya Jeelani, was killed in a mine explosion in Kashmir while traveling with an elections monitoring team on April 20 this year.