New Delhi, June 5, 2018--Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir state should identify and punish the officers who assaulted freelance reporter Muheet ul Islam, and allow journalists to do their jobs without fear of retaliation, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Officers from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a paramilitary group, at approximately 11 a.m. on June 2 beat Islam while he was on his way to cover the funeral of a civilian who was allegedly crushed to death by a CRPF vehicle the previous day in the state's Srinagar city, according to Islam and news reports.
Islam told CPJ that the road to the funeral site was cordoned off with barbed wire and, when he told the officer at the makeshift fence that he is a journalist and needed to continue along the road to cover the funeral, the officer began shouting profanities at him and beat Islam's scooter with his baton.
"[The officer] then hit my left arm with a stick and immediately six or seven other CRPF officers rushed [to the scene] and all of them beat me with sticks on my back, legs and arms," Islam said. The regional news website Kashmir Walla later posted a photograph of the journalist's bruised arm.
"Kashmir authorities must identify and take action against the officers who launched an unprovoked attack against Muheet ul Islam," said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator in Washington, D.C. "The assault on Islam is yet another reminder of the oppressive conditions in which journalists work in Jammu and Kashmir State."
Sanjay Sharma, a spokesperson for the CRPF, told CPJ yesterday that the altercation had not come to his attention and said he "will have to find out more" before commenting. The spokesperson did not answer the phone when CPJ called today.
Islam told CPJ that other CRPF officers, along with Jammu and Kashmir state police officials, who were posted on another street, came to help him when they heard him being beaten. "One of those CRPF officers even apologized to me and took a photo of my voter identification card claiming security reasons," Islam told CPJ.
According to the Kashmir Walla report, Islam went home after the attack and did not make it to the funeral.
In a separate incident on the same day, CRPF officers in Srinagar beat Junaid Bazaz, a reporter with the newspaper Kashmir Reader, as he was returning home from work for the evening, the journalist told CPJ.
Bazaz said that six CRPF officers hit him on the legs, arms, and head with bare hands without any provocation. "Officers of the Jammu and Kashmir state police were standing some feet away, but they didn't bother to intervene," according to the journalist and a report on the Free Press Kashmir news website.
Imtiaz Parray, Sringar city police senior superintendent, and Manoj Kumar Pandit, additional inspector general in charge of public relations for the regional police, did not respond to CPJ's calls seeking comment.
CPJ has documented media abuses throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In September 2017, Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf was imprisoned by India's National Investigation Agency for six months on sedition charges before being released on bail, according to CPJ research.