A police officer attacks journalists in Srinagar, in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir, on August 17, 2021. (Photo: The Kashmirwalla)

Jammu and Kashmir police assault journalists covering religious procession

New Delhi, August 17, 2021 – Authorities in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir should investigate the recent police attacks on journalists in the city of Srinagar and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

This afternoon, police officers attacked a group of journalists covering a procession in Srinagar marking Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, according to multiple news reports and journalists at the scene who spoke to CPJ in phone interviews. Journalists told CPJ that they sustained minor injuries during the scuffle, and at least one reporter’s camera was broken.

“Jammu and Kashmir police abused their authority today by attacking journalists who were simply doing their jobs and documenting an event of public interest,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “The Indian government must take immediate action against those involved in this violent act, and send the message that police must allow journalists to do their jobs without interference.”

The incident began when police officer Aftab Ahmad entered into an argument with Waseem Andrabi, a photographer with the Hindustan Times newspaper, over the presence of news media at the procession, which had been banned by the government, according to news reports and Bhat Burhan, a freelance photojournalist covering the procession for German newspaper Der Spiegel.

Ahmad shoved Andrabi during the confrontation, and when Burhan intervened to try and calm the situation, Ahmad ordered police officers to attack Burhan and other journalists, according to Burhan and Free Press Journal freelance reporter Sajjad Hameed, who was also at the scene.

Police officers are seen beating and chasing a group of journalists in videos and images shared on Twitter.

Burhan and Hameed told CPJ that officers hit them each a few times on their legs and arms; Burhan sustained bruises on his right leg, and Hameed bruises on his left leg and right arm. Hameed also told CPJ that officers broke his camera during the assault.

Police attacked between 10 and 15 journalists, Hameed told CPJ. CPJ was unable to immediately identify all of those journalists or the extent of their injuries.

The police stopped their assault after BBC Urdu photojournalist Shafat Farooq sat on the ground in protest, and was joined by other journalists, according to Hameed and videos of the incident shared online. Video of the incident shows a police officer charging toward Farooq with a baton as he sits, but the officer is stopped by a superior.

“I decided I will not run away. The police can do whatever they want. We were doing our job and they have no right to assault us like this,” Farooq told CPJ.

CPJ called and texted Ahmad for comment, but did not receive any replies. CPJ texted Sandeep Chaudhary, the Srinagar senior superintendent of police, for comment, but did not immediately receive any response.