Paris: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the pellet attack on photojournalists in Kashmir by government forces and called on the state authorities to “investigate the behaviour of police who deliberately fired shotgun pellets at photojournalists, injuring four of them”.
The global media watchdog also asked the authorities “to ensure that the security forces cease to use shotgun pellets against journalists in future”.
The reporters were covering a gunfight in Shopian district on January 22, in the south of Kashmir, when the police fired at them with their shotguns, injuring four of them in the face and body. They were identified as Nisar-ul-Haq of the Srinagar daily Rising Kashmir, Junaid Gulzar of Kashmir Essence, Mir Burhan of ANN and Waseem Andrabi of the Hindustan Times. The four photojournalists were transferred to the hospital.
Describing the attack, Andrabi said: “We wanted to cross the road and showed our cameras to them, and two of us were wearing vests that read ‘press.’ Despite that, they showered pellets on us.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms these deliberate acts of violence by the security forces against journalists who were just trying to do their job,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“We urge the local authorities to reconsider their systematic use of shotguns, of which reporters are too often the collateral victims. And we call above all for an independent investigation to identify those responsible for this unacceptable act of brutality and to administer appropriate sanctions.”
This is not the first time that the security forces have fired shotgun pellets at reporters in Kashmir. Aijaz Ahmad Dar of Zee News was injured in the head while covering a protest in Shopian district in October. The photojournalist Masrat Zahra sustained shotgun pellet injuries to the forehead while she was covering the Eid festivities last August, the RSF statement noted.
“The photographer Ahmer Khan was hit by shotgun pellets last May during what he described as an extremely violent police assault on protesters outside a mosque. After sustaining shotgun pellet injuries to the body and eye in August 2016, reporter Mir Javid told how he himself extracted many of the pellets embedded in his body while in hiding.”
RSF issued an “incident report” in July about the threats to India’s position in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, in which it is currently ranked 138th out of 180 countries.