Two Kashmiri photojournalists were covering a rally in old city Srinagar on Sunday when pellets rained on them.
While Muzamil Matto escaped with a few pellets in his head as he ducked on seeing policemen aim guns on protesters, Zuhaib Ahmad had his whole body–including the left eye–pierced by the minute particles. Ahmad underwent an eye surgery and is recuperating at SMHS hospital.
The incident was the latest in a series of attacks on media persons—both by protestors and security forces—in the ongoing Kashmir turmoil. “Journalists walk a very tightrope in Kashmir,” said senior journalist Sheikh Mushtaq.
Photographers, always the first to be at the line of action, have bore the brunt repeatedly during the ongoing turmoil that by far killed 75 people, including two policemen.
Last week, policemen thrashed photojournalists in Batamaloo area of the city after an altercation over taking snaps of the protest. In south Kashmir’s Bijbehara town last month, photojournalist Muneeb-ul-Islam was allegedly assaulted by security personnel while covering a stone-pelting incident.
Senior photographer Farooq Javed Khan said policemen presume photographers to be mob inciters. “That’s wrong. Clashes happen without us in the spot,” added Khan, who is president of Kashmiri Press Photographers Association.
During the longest spell of curfew in Kashmir’s history, journalists often got into heated exchanges with security forces as they travelled across restricted areas of the city. Last month, when Sumaiya Yousuf, who reports for ‘Rising Kashmir’, faced harassment from a police party led by an IPS officer when she was returning home at night.
When HT asked IGP (Kashmir) SJM Gillani about repeated attacks of media-persons in the last two months, he promised action. “We are enquiring into whatever complaints,” he said.
The protestors, too, attack reporters and photographers, believing journalists either distort news or provide information to security agencies.
Danish Bin Nabi of ‘Rising Kashmir’ was thrashed by attendants of patients at the SMHS hospital when he went to report on victims of police firing. A reporter with ‘Indian Express’ and a senior photographer with an international photo agency also faced the same fate at the hospital.
Nabi told HT he sensed “alienation and distrust” for the national media. ““When boys were slapping me, can you explain that not all media house are the same,” Nabi asks.
Mushtaq finds “nothing new” in security forces targeting journalists. “”What’s new is the common Kashmiri’s anger against the media,” he says.