14 July 2010

Journalists barred from reporting on demonstrations; journalist slain

Indian troops crack down on Kashmiri journalists.
Indian troops crack down on Kashmiri journalists.
via AP
Weeks of anti-India street protests have left 15 people dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir and authorities are striking hard with a complete lockdown on local coverage of the unrest. Local journalists have been beaten by police and barred from covering the government crackdown on demonstrators, and thousands of police have been deployed in the region to enforce a curfew, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Authorities have also attempted to control the flow of information by shutting down publications and confiscating newspapers prior to distribution. At the same time, in two other states, a journalist was killed and an editor arrested.

Widespread demonstrations began in early June in the Kashmir Valley, and cities have been under curfew for several days. Curfew passes issued to journalists last week were cancelled. New passes were then issued to a few editors and senior journalists.

But on 9 July, BBC Urdu service journalist Riaz Masroor was stopped at a police check point and beaten as he was on his way to collect his curfew pass. And on 6 July, at least 12 photographers and cameramen working for local, national and international media suffered serious injuries after being assaulted by security forces trying to stop them from recording the demonstrations. Some had their equipment confiscated. "Senior police officers were heard remarking that without media attention the demonstrations would soon lose momentum," reports IFJ.

Many of the area's more than 60 newspapers decided to suspend publication because of the small number of curfew passes issued to staff and continued attacks on media.

In the region of Jammu, authorities sealed the premises of three publications on 2 July alleging they had carried false news reports that aggravated tensions between religious communities. The next day, two newspapers in English and Urdu, were seized. Text-messaging services remain suspended and telephone services are frequently disrupted in the Kashmir region.

But not all journalists are being denied access. Journalists flying in from Delhi, the capital, are being given armed protection and considerable freedom of movement, while local journalists are confined to their homes under curfew, say IFJ and CPJ. "The story of the ongoing troubles in Kashmir needs to be told," IFJ said. "But it also should be told by journalists based in Kashmir."

Government forces have arrested dozens of suspected separatists and activists, say news reports.

Meanwhile, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, freelance journalist Hem Chandra Pandey was killed on 2 July while covering an armed conflict between police and Maoist cadres of the Communist Party of India. Pandey had travelled to Nagpur to interview the leader of the party. He "was well within his rights in seeking to interview an insurgent leader, especially in the context of ongoing peace moves," said IFJ.

And in another southern state, Kerala, magazine editor T.P. Nandakumar was arrested on defamation charges on 3 July after writing about an Indian businessman, who is a resident in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi. Nandakumar was under court injunction not to publish any material on the businessman, the complainant. His arrest came after an article was posted on the "Crime Magazine" website. Nandakumar was released on bail the next day.

"Crime Magazine" is widely read because of its coverage of alleged misdeeds of several major political parties in the state, having a significant political impact.

Kashmir (India)
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