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
Srinagar: Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an international non-profit, non-governmental organisation that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press, calls 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 on 21 February for a decision on his bail application.
RSF said that the 23-year-old Kamran Yousuf 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, 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’,” RSF said.
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, said that it is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover.
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, Daniel added.
“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,” Bastard was quoted by a report published on RSF’s website as saying.
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, the report added.
Stringing for Greater Kashmir and the Gulistan News TV channel from Pulwama, he has covered both police activities and attacks by rebel groups, the report added. Recognised by his colleagues for his professionalism, he was listed among Kashmir’s nine most promising photographers two week before his arrest, the report said.
“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,” the report added.
“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.”