Press Freedom

Journalists’ organisations call for Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf’s immediate release

A court in Delhi is likely to decide his bail plea on Wednesday.

The Kashmir Editors’ Guild on Tuesday sought the immediate release of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, who was arrested in September 2017 for his alleged involvement in “stone-pelting incidents”, and reacted strongly against the National Investigation Agency’s attempt to define journalism.

If the police start defining the roles and responsibilities of journalists, who manage the fourth pillar of democracy, then the universities that train thousands of journalists every year across India must be locked, the organisation’s spokesperson Shafat Kira said. “Re-defining journalism has usually been seen as an effort by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes and not democracies.”

The National Investigation Agency had said in its chargesheet, filed on January 18 against Yousuf and 11 others, that a “real journalist” should cover the government’s development activities, inaugurations of hospitals and schools, and statements of ruling parties.

The Kashmir Editors’ Guild said the investigators had looked into every possible angle of Yousuf’s supposed involvement and had failed to prove the charges against the journalist. “It is high time that Yousuf is permitted to move out of jail and resume his routine and help his mother, the only relation he has, in surviving honourably,” the editors said. “His release will contribute to the strengthening of democracy and right to free speech.”

Additional Sessions Judge Tarun Sherawat in Delhi’s Patiala House Courts Complex is likely to announce his final decision on Yousuf’s bail plea on Wednesday, The Kashmir Monitor reported.

The Kashmir Working Journalists Association also criticised the NIA for attempting to define journalism, and asked it to “desist from delivering lectures on journalism”. Samaan Lateef, the organisation’s secretary, said the charges against Yousuf are baseless.

“The pathetic standards of journalism that NIA aims to thrust are not just childishly naive but also reflect a dangerous conspiracy to disempower the fourth estate,” the organisation said. “If [the] NIA does not understand the basics that separate PR [public relations] from journalism, it puts its own investigating capabilities into question.”

The international organisation Reporters Without Borders also called for Yousuf’s immediate release. “The authorities must free him at once and, above all, they need to understand that it is not the job of journalists to relay their propaganda,” the organisation, which has its headquarters in Paris, said in a statement released on Tuesday. “As a result of the constraints on press freedom, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is in the process of becoming a new Tibet, a black hole for news and information.”

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