Targeted in Kashmir

BY Kausar Bukhari| IN Media Freedom | 30/05/2002
Targeted in Kashmir

Targeted in Kashmir

 

Shot at on May 29th, Zafar Iqbal is the latest in a series of media victims in Kashmir. If one goes back to the last 13 years, it is amply clear that journalists have suffered much on account of not only being present in Kashmir but also making the world aware of happenings there.

 

By Kousar Bukhari in Srinagar

 

New York, May 29, 2002-The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the shooting of Zafar Iqbal, a journalist for the Sirinigar, Kashmir-based English-language daily Kashmir Images. Iqbal, who was shot by three unidentified assailants this afternoon, was seriously injured and is currently in the hospital in stable condition, according to journalists in Kashmir and Indian news reports.

 

A grenade blast in the office complex of Ehsan Fazili, the Sirinagar correspondent of TRIBUNE on April 18, 2002 was certainly an accidental one as the boy who was trying to aim it at the security forces failed to do so on the busy Residency Road. He then rushed to Fazili`s office compound in Press Enclave in panic. But it underscores the hazards to which journalists are constantly exposed in this state.. The list of incidents of threats to journalists from militant groups as well as the security forces is a long one.

If one goes back to last 13 years, it is amply clear that they have suffered much on account of being not only present in Kashmir but also making the world aware of happenings. In May last year over 17 journalists were attacked by the Border Security Force (BSF) headed by a DIG namely A K Mullick while they were covering an incident in Magam on Srinagar-Gulmarg road. The BSF outburst was unjustified and many of journalists were injured and their equipment worth lacs of rupees was damaged in a twinkle of eye. The authorities say investigation is under way. Who knows?

Going about a year back then, in August 2000 the death of Hindustan Times photographer Pradeep Bhatia and injuries to six of his local counterparts in a car bomb blast was yet another grim reminder of volatile situation for media persons here. Caught as they are between the devil and the deep sea, the explosion did prove once again that they have to walk the razor`s edge when it comes to discharging their professional duties. The situation has worsened for the embattled scribes as their dissatisfied hundred masters go on changing everyday.

This small community of not more than 150 souls, that has been the source of news to the world from 1990 in particular, has suffered worst over the years. They have lost ten of their colleagues and perhaps there is nobody who does not carry the "indelible" marks, which the situation has left over them, physically and mentally.

Habibullah Naqash, the Asian Age photographer, was one of the six injured in that blast.He has nothing to offer you but he just laughs. Not because he just had minor injuries on that fateful day but because whenever there was trouble Naqash was hurt. So far he has been injured seven times in incidents which involved him as a professional journalist.

Ever since the eruption of militancy in Kashmir, the press has been the target of many forces at the same time, a situation worse than the cross fire. Interestingly the challenges before them changed with the passage of time. Initially when militant outfits wanted them to carry whatever they thought was "in the interest of the movement", the government tried to impose overt and covert curbs to prevent "the misuse of freedom of speech".

While militants did it in the "larger interests of the community", the government did so to justify that "publicity is oxygen for the militancy". The rival forces tried their level best to make use of the maximum space in the press. Both imposed restrictions on the coverage and both the sides have been after journalists when something against them is published. This led to bans on the publication and circulation of the newspapers by the militants a number of times. Jagmohan, the then Kashmir governor sealed off most of the printing presses in Srinagar and registered cases under TADA against the editors. Since that brought a bad name to the government, the state did it again covertly. They used `friendly militias - the surrendered militants, later.

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