Kashmir Press Club condemns midnight raid on Journalist Kamran Yousuf, urges attention to the appalling conditions of press in Kashmir

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Kashmir Press Club on Monday took a note on the continuous harassment of journalists in the Valley. In a statement the journalists body condemned midnight raid on independent multimedia journalist Kamran Yousuf who currently works for Newsclick.in.

On Sunday night, Kamran Yousuf was picked up from his home at Pulwama by the police. Recalling the details, Kamran said that a police party led by DYSP and SHO Pulwama entered his home around 11 pm and knocked on the door.

“I saw policemen surrounding our premises. The police official asked me come along and snatched my phones,” he said. According to Kamran, he was taken in a police vehicle to the office of DYSP and was questioned about some twitter account run by Kamran Manzoor. “They checked my phones and searched everything on it. They asked me about some Kamran Manzoor and showed me his twitter account. The police officer said we had suspicion that you are running it,” said Kamran. He said that finally after failing to find anything that they were looking for, the police official called some officer on phone and let him go at 1 am in the dead of night. “My distraught family members were waiting outside and took me home,” he added.

The police’s nocturnal raid at the house of a journalist has once again highlighted the dangers faced by journalists in the Valley.

The Kashmir Press Club demands home minister Amit Shah as well as the J&K government to take note of the appalling conditions in which press in Kashmir is working since August 5 last year. As such, it is once again urged that the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression and speech is being respected in the region by allowing press and journalists to function freely.

Kamran Yousuf being one of the bravest of the photographers of Kashmir, had been facing such intimidation from police and army. Among his reports on the aftermath of abrogation of article 370, one about the mothers of the youths who were arrested and put in Indian jails after the abrogation of article 370 is highly significant. Kamran had also been working with Keyboard Journal as a photo journalist.

After the abrogation of article 370 and 35 A, the Kashmiri journalists are facing extreme hindrances than before. They are forced to work with limited internet in a government facilitated media center where there is no privacy to work. The internet shut down in Kashmir put them in more risk in telling the story of Kashmir. There are reports that most of them who were reporting were attacked both by the police and the army and their visuals were asked to be removed from their devices.

In October last year, Kashmir Press Club held a meeting and decided to set up a committee to record incidents of attacks and difficulties in reporting faced by the armed forces.

In a previous statement released on February 10, Kashmir Press Club spokesperson says, “The Kashmir Press Club on Monday convened an urgent meeting to discuss physical attacks, threats, intimidation being meted out to the journalists in Kashmir by J&K Police.

The meeting in which representatives of all journalists associations took part noted with concern that from first day since Article 370 was removed on August 5, the government is not enabling journalists and media to operate freely from the Valley. This is evident from the prolonged six-month internet shutdown in the region since August 5. As if that was not enough, physical attacks, threats and summons to journalists are being employed by security agencies to intimidate journalists. In fact, the summons and harassment to journalists to counter-insurgency centre (Cargo) in Srinagar has become a routine exercise. The harassment and questioning of journalists in Kashmir on flimsy grounds by the J&K Police for their work is in fact a damning verdict on the appalling condition in which media is operating.”

Kashmir Press Club joined by all journalist bodies in Kashmir had asked the government to stop practice of summons and attacks on journalists. Being the Fourth Estate, they said, the government should ensure freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in the constitution instead of muzzling the press. Viewing media as part of problem in Kashmir and blaming journalists for everything wrong is quite misplaced.

In another outrageous move, the J&K police have charged UAPA on social media users for the use of Virtual Private Networks. Even after the government claims that the internet connections are restored in Kashmir, restrictions continue in accessing social media websites. The government have white listed 301 websites that can be accessed. Mobile phones of many youths were checked by armed officials and many of them were attacked as per reports.

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