JK becoming ‘black hole for news’: RSF
SRINAGAR: Calling for the immediate release of jailed photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, Reporters Without Borders, or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), said on Tuesday that Jammu and Kashmir “is in the process of becoming a new Tibet, a black hole for news and information”.
In a statement, the RSF said the 23-year-old photojournalist is facing a possible death sentence on spurious charges for trying to cover one of the world’s most secret conflicts.
A charge sheet produced last week by the National Investigation Agency claimed that Yousuf is not a “real journalist/stringer by profession” because he only covered “anti-national” activities and never performed his “moral duty” as a journalist to cover “developmental activity” or the “inauguration of [a] hospital or school building.”.
“It is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The contradictory nature of the charges clearly shows that Kamran Yousuf is being used as a scapegoat in order to intimidate journalists who try to document the situation in Kashmir.”
“The authorities must free him at once and, above all, they need to understand that it is not the job of journalists to relay their propaganda. As a result of the constraints on press freedom, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is in the process of becoming a new Tibet, a black hole for news and information.”
A quick look at Yousuf’s Instagram page suffices to show that this photojournalist has covered all sorts of news in a region that, without independent press photographers, would be completely cut off from the world.
Stringing for such media as the Greater Kashmir newspaper and the Gulistan News TV channel from his base in Pulwama, a town 40 kilometres south of Srinagar, he has covered both police activities and attacks by rebel groups. Recognised by his colleagues for his professionalism, he was listed among Kashmir’s nine most promising photographers two weeks before his arrest.
Arrested by the state police on the pretext that he participated in a protest in which stones were thrown at the security forces, he was formally charged on January 18 with “sedition, criminal conspiracy and attempting to wage war against India”. The last of these charges carries a possible death sentence.
Partly as a result of the repeated violations of the freedom to inform in the Kashmir Valley, India is ranked no higher than 136th out of 180 countries in the RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.