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Journos covering encounter thrashed; KEG, other scribe’ bodies condemn forces’ action

Srinagar, Oct 17: Over a dozen scribes were beaten by the government forces, some of them receiving serious injuries, while covering Fateh Kadal encounter that broke out early Wednesday.

In the encounter, two militants, a civilian and a policeman were killed.

Early morning, videographers and reporters working for various national and local media houses reached Fateh Kadal to cover the encounter but were stopped by the Police from doing their professional duties.

“I reached Fateh Kadal at around 7 am along with the two colleagues. We were taking the pictures; suddenly some SOG men arrived and asked us to leave. Before we could have left, they started thrashing us,” said photo journalist, Zia Shakeel.

“There was no provocation from our side. We were doing our professional duties, it was quite unfortunate that Police thrashed us in front of their superiors,” he added.

Video journalist, Arshid Hussain, working with a national news channel said that no firing was going on at the time when the journalists were beaten.

“I was beaten. After taking the video byte of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, central Kashmir V K Birdi, I was just talking to him. In the meantime, an SOG man came and asked me to leave, I told him to wait as I was talking to Birdi. He didn’t listen anything, hit me harshly with a baton and abused me,” he said.

Asking for action against the erring cops, Hussain said that he was doing his professional duties and nothing else.

“It is surprising to see a constable hitting a journo and abusing in front of his superiors. Even officers were seen beating. Many journalists were seen running for safety,” he said.

Denouncing the Police action, a video journalist asked for stern action against the erring cops.

“Under these circumstances, how can we work? The higher ups of Police department should ensure that the scribes do not face any kind of harassment at the hands of government forces,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) strongly condemned the Police action.

KEG said that the police action on the ground suggests that the counter-insurgency establishment wishes to frighten the media and stop this institution from covering anything which the grid dislikes and take over the entire systems and processes.

“We strongly feel that the attack on journalists that too when several senior officers from various security agencies where witnessing the ignominy is aimed to send a strong signal to the media that any reportage contrary to the establishment point of view would be dealt with sternly,” the KEG maintained.

Kashmir Press Club (KPC) also condemned the Police action.

“Many reporters and photojournalists were beaten up while they were delivering their professional duties this morning. One of the injured journalists is also a member of the executive team of KPC,” the spokesman said in a statement.

“It is also being reported that the thrashing took place right in front of senior police officers. The KPC expresses shock over this behaviour by the forces,” the statement read.

Jammu and Kashmir Editors Forum (JKEF) while condemning the forces  action urged the government to ensure safety and protection of the media persons working in Kashmir.

“It is the moral and   constitutional responsibility of the government to provide conducive atmosphere for the media persons,” said a spokesman in a statement.

Kashmir Press Photographers Association (KPPA) while condemning the Police action expressed showed serious dismay over the use of abusive language against the photo journalists by the Police officers.

“Two senior Police officers, Superintendent of Police (SP), north and Superintendent of Police (SP) cargo used abusive language.

Their behaviour was “brazen” and “uncalled for” The authorities should take immediate action against them,” the spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesman said that senior Police officers behaved like “ruffians” and not only came in way of the photojournalists performing their professional obligations but also beat them to pulp and threatened them of dire consequences.

The KPPA spokesman said if immediate action was not taken against the two senior Police officers, the photojournalist community would hit the streets in protest.

Kashmir Journalist Association (KJA) condemned the manhandling of journalists by government forces.

“The journalists are being stopped from performing their professional duties even as there are clear constitutional guidelines which govern the media in Jammu and Kashmir,” said a spokesman in a statement.

“The incident is also unfortunate as it has taken place in front of senior police officials,” the statement read.

Meanwhile Inspector General of Police (IGP), S P Pani tendered unconditional apology.

“Without going into the context of the incident, I unconditionally apologise to all journalist friends. We will develop Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the crisis situation so that such incidents do not come to fore,” the statement quoting IGP as having told the KJA spokesperson over the phone.