Srinagar: Journalists continue to be harassed and prevented from doing their duties by the government forces. Both on Saturday and on Sunday, government forces restricted the movement of journalists when they were out to do their professional duties. Many media persons, including this reporter, were denied passage and asked to seek a curfew pass from the deputy commissioner. Photojournalists were among those who showed their press cards but had to turn back as the troops blocked their way.
This reporter was stopped six times on the way through downtown areas to his office in Batamaloo. A contingent of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed near Hawal Chowk had to be convinced to allow me passage after they resolutely blocked the way. As I moved ahead through the heavy presence of police and CRPF soldiers on the streets, two policemen near Gojwara area shouted at me to stop and to turn back my two-wheeler. When I revealed my identity to them, they replied: “Turn back and be at home today.”
They let me pass after a while. However, a few meters ahead, near Nowhatta Chowk, I was stopped again, this time by CRPF soldiers. They asked me to show the ‘curfew pass’ that is issued by the district deputy commissioner. When I tried to explain my position to them, they said that either I should have a valid curfew pass or I should turn back home. “Show your curfew pass or go back home. We don’t entertain press cards,” the CRPF officer said.
After turning back and then taking the route through the interior lanes at Islamia College, the troops deployed there once again denied access and ordered that I go back home. I had to take another route and somehow managed to reach office by avoiding the paths where forces were deployed.
Photojournalist Farooq Javed, who is also the president of the Kashmir Press Photojournalists Association, said he and his colleagues were barred from moving ahead in downtown areas. The troops demanded curfew passes from them, he said.
“We argued with them that they should accept our press cards, like they have been doing in earlier situations. They told us that they have orders to allow movement of only those who have a valid curfew pass,” Javed said.
Javed said that curfew is frequently imposed in Kashmir and asking media persons to acquire and carry latest curfew passes every now and then is not practical. “It would have been justified had it (curfew) been imposed for a longer period. The curfew order came late at night and in the morning we are being asked to show curfew passes. How is that possible? We will be meeting higher officials soon to raise this issue,” he said.
On Saturday, a group of photojournalists who were heading towards Tral were stopped a kilometre away from the encounter site at Saimoo village, by government troops. “We were stopped and ordered to go back by the police officials deployed in the area,” Muzamil, one among the photojournalists, told Kashmir Reader.
The same day, a photojournalist from south Kashmir was physically assaulted by troops after he questioned the barring of passage to journalists who were carrying out their professional duties.
There have been numerous attacks on journalists in the past but hardly any action has been taken against the alleged culprits.
Inspector General of Police Muneer Ahmad Khan said he was not aware of the attack on a journalist in Pulwama on Saturday. He said that carrying curfew passes was necessary for every media person whenever curfew is imposed by the administration.
When asked why forces can’t accept press cards as curfew passes, Khan said that there were hundreds of journalists operating in Kashmir, many of whom were “fake”. “By means of curfew passes we will distinguish between real and fake journalist,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Farooq Ahmad Lone echoed the same words and said he will look into the issue of the assault on a journalist.