After CPJ and Kashmir Editors Guild, Global Journalists’ body RSF tells NIA to #FreeKamranYousuf

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Kamran Yousuf, a Kashmiri photojournalist who has been held for the past six months and is due to appear before a New Delhi court tomorrow for a decision on his bail application.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB), or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press.

RSF wrote on its website, “arrested on 5 September for allegedly participating in a demonstration in Kashmir, the 23-year-old Kamran Yousuf is facing a possible death sentence on spurious charges for trying to cover one of the world’s most secret conflicts.”

A charge sheet produced last week by the National Investigation Agency, India’s counter-terrorism agency, claims that Yousuf is not a “real journalist/stringer by profession” because he only covered “anti-national” activities and never performed his “moral duty” as a journalist to cover “developmental activity” or the “inauguration of [a] hospital or school building.”

“It is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The contradictory nature of the charges clearly shows that Kamran Yousuf is being used as a scapegoat in order to intimidate journalists who try to document the situation in Kashmir.”

In December, 42-year-old French journalist Paul Comiti was arrested by Jammu and Kashmir Police on December 10, 2017, while preparing to film in Kashmir. Immediately after the detention, many international bodies of journalists, including the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), issued a statement demanding Paul’s release.

ALSO READ: Global journalists’ bodies back Kamran Yousuf, says NIA has no business defining what ‘real journalists’ should cover

Before this, Global Journalists’ body, The Committee to Protect Journalists had called on the Indian authorities and the National Investigative Agency (NIA) to immediately drop charges against photojournalist Kamran Yousuf and release him.

The CPJ is a global non-profit organisation working towards press freedom worldwide.

The counter-terror agency claims that Kamran Yousuf is not a ‘real journalist’ because he did not cover development projects.

“India’s National Investigative Agency is way out of its league and has no business defining what ‘a real journalist’ should cover,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Kamran Yousuf’s work taking photographs of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is a public service in the best spirit of journalism. He should be freed immediately.”

ALSO READ: #JournalismIsNotACrime: List of Journalists killed and attacked in Kashmir proves otherwise

An India based organisation, Network of Women in Media, India, (NWMI) a forum for women media professionals, has said that it is shocked to read that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has laid down what it considers to be the “moral duty of a journalist” in its charge-sheet against Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf.

The charge-sheet against 12 accused dated January 18, 2018, which accuses Yousuf with stone-pelting and conspiracy says: “Had he been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty (sic) of a journalist which is to cover the activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction. He had never covered any developmental activity of any Government Department/Agency, any inauguration of Hospital, School Building, Road, Bridge, statement of political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by state government or Govt of India.”

On September 14, Press Council of India (PCI) had issued a notice to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Jammu and Kashmir police, and other state officials over the arrest of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf.

Taking a suo-motu cognizance regarding the arrest of the photojournalist, PCI has given two weeks time to the respondents to reply to the notice.

The letter addressed to the National Investigation Agency officials, officials of Government of Jammu and Kashmir and to Jammu and Kashmir Police said that the matter is a “prima facie concerned with the freedom of press in the country”.

ALSO READ: #JournalismIsNotACrime: Why Kamran Yousuf is not Paul Comiti

In Kashmir, the Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) has expressed serious concern over the continuous detention of freelance photographer Kamran Yusuf.

Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG), an organisation of the editors of the newspapers published in Kashmir on Tuesday strongly reacted to the ‘new definition’ of a journalist by National Investigation Agency (NIA) detailed in the chargesheet of incarcerated Kashmir photo-journalist Kamran Yousuf.

“If the cops are supposed to define the roles and responsibilities of the journalists, which manage the fourth pillar of democracy, the universities that train thousands of journalists in a year across India must be locked,” the statement said. “Re-defining journalism is usually been seen as an effort by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes and not democracies.”

ALSO READ: Redefining journalism is an effort by totalitarian, dictatorial regimes not democracies: KEG to NIA

The KEG had said in a statement in september, that the NIA has arrested Kamran Yusuf “without spelling out the reasons and that doesn’t gel with the set legal norms prevalent in any democratic setup.”

Similarly, the Kashmir Working Journalists Association (KWJA) also condemned ‘the continuous incarceration of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf’, alleging that “he (Kamran Yousuf) is being victimised only for carrying out his professional duties that somehow embarrassed the government.” The photojournalist has been in detention for the past 169 days. A statement released by KWJA said, “Kamran’s arrest and framing is aimed only to muzzle the press in Kashmir, and that all charges against him are baseless and motivated.”

Speaking to Free Press Kashmir on the condition of anonymity, a human rights lawyer from New Delhi, familiar with Kamran’s case, says that he has been ‘kept in custody illegally’.

ALSO READ: Abuse of Kashmiri Prisoners in Jails: Who said what

According to the source, Kamran’s lawyer while countering NIA’s first allegation, argued that Kamran was in fact present at the places where stone pelting took place, as a journalist, and had submitted and pitched those photographs to organisation he freelanced for.

“The defence has shown everything in court. Clearly, there is nothing against Kamran. The court will take the decision and its not in the hands of the defence after that,” the source said, adding that Kamran has been denying all the allegations since day one.

“NIA comes in when it is a very serious offence of some kind. It’s not like your regular state police. Why is his case being separated from everyone else’s? There is no justification on record etc. It’s discriminatory, and plain harassment,” Kamran’s defense lawyer told Free Press Kashmir.

ALSO READ: NIA files Chagesheet in alleged ‘terror funding’ case, Hafiz Saeed named along with Kamran Yousuf, Altaf Shah


Click to comment
To Top