Srinagar: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for the immediate release of Kamran Yousuf, a Kashmiri photojournalist who has been held for the past six months and is due to appear before a New Delhi court today for a decision on his bail application.
“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 charge sheet produced last week by the National Investigation Agency, India’s counter-terrorism agency, claims 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.”
The RSF statement said that Kamran was 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 18 January 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 RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index,” RSF said.