Journalists covering protests in Srinagar beaten up by police

‘Why did you beat him as if to kill?’

Srinagar, March 05 (KMS): In Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the journalists covering protests outside Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid, today, said that they were chased and two of them were beaten up by Indian police personnel.

Shafat Farooq, a videojournalist with the BBC’s Urdu service, told media men over phone that a constable hit him on backbone with a gun butt as other personnel chased him when he was covering the protests in Nowhatta area. He said that after being hit with the butt of the personnel’s rifle, the police continued to chase him. “Then I confronted him why he hit me,” Farooq told media men.

On Friday, journalists arrived at the historic Jamia Masjid since Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief priest and Hurriyat forum Chairman was expected to lead the Friday congregational prayers after more than 20 months of house detention.

The authorities had reportedly claimed to have released Mirwaiz from house detention. However, Hurriyat forum maintained that the authorities didn’t allow the Mirwaiz to leave his residence and the deployment of forces’ personnel outside his residence was beefed up.

Journalists outside the masjid confronted the police for manhandling their colleagues. BBC Urdu correspondent, Riyaz Masroor, who was also on the spot, said that the journalists had stood behind the police deployment as protestors clashed with the forces at some distance. “Journalists were doing their work behind your line – why did you beat them up brutally as if to kill him,” Masroor had told a police officer, he said.

A freelance photojournalist, Saqib Majeed, was also beaten up by the police. “The police grabbed his collar and held him by neck,” three journalists, who were also covering the protest, told media.

A third journalist, associated with a local outlet, Kashmir Crown, was being detained apparently for not carrying his press card. He was let go after the intervention of other journalists present at the site of the protest. The police had also fired pellets from shotguns on the protestors.

Meanwhile, Kashmir Press Club in a statement condemned the assault on the photojournalists. “While taking note of the assault and condemning the police behavior, Kashmir Press Club urges upon the police authorities to sensitize its ranks about its conduct/response towards the press/media persons. Else, it becomes clear that the intimidation, harassment and assaults are meant to stop journalists from doing their duties,” the statement said. The KPC hopes that the journalists are allowed to conduct their professional duties without fear and coercion, it added.

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