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Indian Police Beat Up Journalists To Censor News Of Civilian Killings

July 24, 2013

Indian authorities scrambled to censor news by assaulting journalists and shutting down the internet after four people were killed and 44 injured when the Border Security Force opened fire on a mob in Ramban, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on July 18. The mob attacked the BSF camp after news spread that a youth was roughed up by a BSF patrol earlier that day.Other reports said six civilians were killed.
Two journalists, Mohammad Jaffer and Abdul Qayoom, of the English-language Rising Kashmir newspaper were assaulted by officers of the Central Reserve Police Force on July 20 at Peerbagh in Kashmir, when on their way to collect the final version of the latest edition of the paper, the Paris-based media freedom monitor Reporters without Borders (RSF) said on July 23.
“We are outraged by this police attempt to block information in Peerbagh and the violence used to achieve their goal,” RSF said. “We hope that the internal investigation being carried out under the command of a police superintendent quickly identifies the police officers involved in attacking journalists.”
“‘They kicked us, abused us and threatened us with dire consequences if we came again,’ Rising Kashmir quoted Qayoom and Jaffar as saying. Jaffar had to be taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries,” says RSF’s statement.
RSF said the copies of Raising Kashmir and two other newspapers were collected later and the police had stated investigations into the incident had commenced.
Meanwhile, following the BSF shooting on the 18th, a clampdown on internet and 3G mobile services throughout the Kashmir Valley was ordered by the Indian government said an internet provider, which was however denied by the authorities, says RSF.
“‘We received a verbal communiqué to take down the GPRS and 3G services,’ a representative of BSNL, the leading telephone and Internet operator, told the Kashmir Reader on condition of anonymity. ‘The speed of the broadband connections has also been reduced,’ the RSF statement continues.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported July 22 internet services were restored later that evening. The police had said the suspension of the internet was “a precautionary measure” CPJ said.
“There is always the assumption that any demonstration will be violent in nature. Authorities have resorted [to] clamping down any time tensions run high, and it has become a pattern since 2010,” Parvaiz Bukhari, a Kashmir-based journalist with Agence France-Presse, told CPJ by phone. Bukhari said authorities increasingly resort to “non-declared curfews,” during which journalists are unable to get the curfew passes that allow them to report freely during official curfews. Even during official curfews, he said, journalists’ curfew passes have sometimes been torn up by security forces, CPJ reported.
Commenting on media freedom in Kashmir, the New York-based Freedom House says, “India’s 1971 Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act, which is in effect only in Jammu and Kashmir, gives district magistrates the authority to censor publications in certain circumstances, though it is rarely invoked.” In its 2013 Freedom of the Press report, Freedom House details a number of restrictions that apply to journalists in India, but makes special mention of Kashmir with Chhattisgarh, Assam and Manipur “where reporters face pressure from both the government and insurgents.”
RSF has placed India in 140th position among 179 countries in its press Freedom Index, “[i]ts lowest since 2002 because of increasing impunity for violence against journalists and because Internet censorship continues to grow.”
Jammu and Kashmir in Northeast India borders Pakistan has been disputed territory between the two countries since partition in 1948. They fought wars over it in 1948-49 and in 1967. The Simla Agreement of 1972 recognises the Line of Control which formalises the areas India and Pakistan hold.
Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.