The Kashmir Press Club has condemned the alleged attack by the police on three journalists covering the District Development Council elections on Thursday morning. In a statement, the association said the incident was “unfortunate”and demanded an inquiry.

“We hope strict action is taken against those found guilty in this act perpetrated in utter disregard of the freedom of the press,” the statement said. “The KPC [Kashmir Press Club] further urges the chief electoral officer to take note of such incidents and initiate action against the concerned police official.”

The statement said that journalist Fayaz Lolu, who works as a stringer with ETV Bharat, told the press club management that he along with two other journalists Mudasir Qadri, stringer with News 18 Urdu, and Junaid Rafiq, who works with TV 9, were beaten up while covering the ongoing polls in Srigufwara area of South Kashmir.

Lolu claimed that the police seized their equipment, the statement said, adding that the journalists were taken to a nearby police station after Anantnag senior superintendent of police arrived at the spot. Rafiq was admitted to a hospital, the association said, citing Lolu.

“The KPC further urges that the authorities should ensure that an enabling atmosphere is created for the free and fair functioning of the media in Kashmir,” the statement added.

The incident happened during the fifth phase of the council elections in the Union Territory. The elections saw a voter turnout of 26.54% till 11 am, data from the Election Commission showed.

Elections to the District Development Council is the first electoral exercise to take place in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5 last year, when the Narendra Modi-led government revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status, annulled its separate constitution, split the area into two Union Territories – Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir – and removed inherited protections on land and jobs.

The elected members have no legislative powers and are only responsible for economic development and public welfare of the region.

So far, the four phases of voting were held on November 28, December 1, December 4 and December 7, registered a voter turnout of 51.76%, 48.62%, 50.53% and 50.08%, respectively. Voting will conclude on December 19 and the counting of votes will be held on December 22. The results of panchayat bye-elections will be declared on the polling day itself.