Cops train batons at journalists covering Muharram procession
Media groups, political parties denounce police action
Srinagar: Police on Tuesday charged batons at, and thrashed a group of journalists covering a Muharram procession here, evoking criticism from various quarters.
As the media personnel, mostly photo and video journalists, were covering a Muharram procession at Jehangir Chowk, police swung into action and lathicharged them, the scribes said.
They said the policemen, armed with batons, also thrashed some of the journalists and caused damage to their equipment.
The pictures and the videos of the incident were uploaded on various social media forums as the journalists protested the police action.
A senior police officer reached the spot and assured the journalists that he we will look into matter.
Sajjad Hameed, a freelance journalist, alleged that his DSLR camera was damaged by the police near Jahangir Chowk. Another photojournalist Waseem Andrabi, who works with the ‘Hindustan Times’ said that he was beaten by the police when he was covering the event.
Several other media-men also alleged highhandedness by the police terming the action as “unwarranted” and “undemocratic”.
Normal activities at the city centre Lal Chowk and adjoining areas also remained unaffected as all the shops and other commercial establishments were open while traffic was plying normally on roads.
However, police and paramilitary CRPF were deployed at some sensitive pockets of the city including Guru Bazar, Shaheed Gunj and Dalgate to prevent Shia mourners from taking out 8th Muharram procession.
With no traffic plan in place, the police barricades at several places in the interior of the city, caused massive traffic snarls and lots of inconvenience to the commuters.
Meanwhile, Kashmir Press Photographers Association (KPPA) condemned the use of force by police.
“KPPA terms the action unjustified and uncalled for. It is highly unfortunate that the police was thrashing the photojournalists (and stopping them) from performing their professional duties,” a statement from the photojournalist body said.
The Kashmir Press Club (KPC) also condemned the assault on the media-persons by the police, and demanded that the police authorities take action against the concerned policemen involved in the incident and sensitise their rank and file to respect the media freedom.
Observing that the media persons were performing their professional duty, the KPC in its statement termed the police action as uncalled for and unfortunate.
KPC reiterates that the police authorities need to respect the freedom of the press as enshrined under the Constitution and ensure strict disciplinary action against the guilty policemen involved in the incident, the statement said.
Various political parties also condemned the police action on journalists.
National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah said the police action was unfortunate and expressed hope that Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha will ensure such incidents are not repeated.
“Very unfortunate to see J&K police personnel mercilessly thrashing journalists in Srinagar. These people were simply doing their jobs – reporting the news. They don’t make the news & they don’t engineer events to create the story. I hope @OfficeOfLGJandK will ensure no repeat,” Abdullah said on Twitter.
He also demanded that an independent photojournalist be compensated for the loss as his equipment was damaged allegedly in the police action.
“He’s an independent photo-journalist. His camera is his livelihood. The administration owes it to Sajad to compensate him for the loss he has suffered while working,” the NC leader said.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti also took to Twitter to highlight the issue.
“Media is spending hours debating the human tragedy & unfolding crisis in Afghanistan but will they speak up for their own community in Kashmir who were beaten to pulp today by security forces for doing their job?” Mufti tweeted.
The Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC) led by Sajad Gani Lone also condemned the police action.
“Merciless beating of journalists is highly condemnable. We express serious concern over such repeated acts of use of force on the media fraternity without any accountability. Surprisingly, the upholders of the law are out to demolish the founding principles of law,” the JKPC said in a tweet.
The Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) termed the thrashing of media-persons as “unfortunate”.
Media is fourth pillar of democracy and the routine coverage as part of its professional obligation must be allowed, they should not be intimated while performing their duties, the party said in a statement.
JKPCC feels disappointed over the thrashing of mediapersons, who were covering Muharram procession and expresses its full solidarity with the media fraternity, it said.
The party urges the government to ensure that mediapersons are allowed to perform their duties, without any fear, it added.
Apni Party termed the thrashing of mediapersons as undemocratic.
In a statement issued here, party said media is the fourth pillar of democracy and the coverage of routine happenings is a part of their professional obligation that must not be dissuaded with the use of force or any sort of intimidation.
“Today’s incident in which journalists allege that they were thrashed by police while doing their duty is extremely unwarranted. These journalists were performing their usual professional duties. These kinds of occurrences need to be stopped as it taints democratic ethos of our country,” it said.