Journalists attacked by protesters as curfew lifts in Kashmir

New Delhi, August 31, 2016–Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir must take stronger measures to ensure the safety of journalists, and should investigate two separate attacks against staff at the Kashmir Observer on August 29, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

In an account that Farooq Shah, managing editor of the daily Kashmir Observer, and Muntazeer Yaseen, a copy editor and designer, gave in their paper, the journalists said they were driving to work separately on August 29 when protesters threw stones at their vehicles. Shah told the paper that when protesters in Srinagar saw the press decal in his car’s windscreen, they began throwing stones which shattered the windows and hit his arm. Yaseen, whose car was also marked “Press,” said he suffered minor injuries from broken glass after protesters used stones to smash the windscreen when he was driving in Pulwama.

Shah, who confirmed the details of the attacks to CPJ, said neither he nor Yaseen reported the incident to the police. He said, “[Police are] busy dealing with the protesters and are much more intensely targeted than us. So nothing would’ve happened.”

The attacks happened on the day a curfew was lifted in parts of Srinagar and the town of Pulwama. The state had imposed a 51-day curfew after violence broke out when Burhan Wani, a commander with Hizbul Mujahideen, a pro-independence militant organization that advocates for Kashmir’s independence from India, was killed during clashes with the Indian army on July 8, according to reports. Journalists working in the state during this period have reported being harassed and attacked by protesters and security forces.

“Kashmir’s difficulties will only deepen if intimidation and attacks on the press prevent a free flow of information,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler in Washington, D.C. “We call on authorities to take stronger measures to ensure the safety of journalists and to prosecute those responsible for the attacks.”

At least two other journalists have been injured covering the unrest this month. On August 8, Muneeb ul Islam, a photojournalist with the independent daily Kashmir Reader, said he was manhandled by India’s paramilitary troops while covering anti-government protests in Anantnag, according to reports. He said that the troops threatened to beat him and pushed him, and that he was hit by stones being thrown by protesters. On August 5, Mir Javed, a reporter for the local news agency Kashmir News Network, was injured in the eye by pellet gun shot in the border town of Kupwara, according to a report in in the Greater Kashmir newspaper and other local outlets. CPJ was not immediately able to contact Javed for further details.

Parvaiz Bukhari, a senior journalist in Kashmir, described in Scroll the hostility the press is facing in the region and said people would speak with him only after he assured them he didn’t work for the “Indian media.” He said, “When protesters see a ‘Press’ label they don’t differentiate between local media and national media. They attack you just because you’re a journalist.”

Journalists have also reported facing challenges including the internet and cell phone services being shut down and hostility from security forces. Last month CPJ documented how several newspapers in the state were prevented from publishing for three days, and mobile internet services and cable television were blocked.