India has hardly been a safe haven for journalists. For years journalists, editors have faced harassment and violence from government or private vested interests. With the high number who are killed for performing their duties or for voicing an opinion, it’s no wonder that India is the third most dangerous place for journalists after the war zones like Syria and Iran.
Kamran Yusuf a 24-year-old photojournalist from Pulwama was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in September 2017 for his alleged involvement in “stone pelting incidents”. The NIA claimed he was involved in throwing stones during clashes between local youth and police force.
Kamran’s family was told by the police that he had been taken to Delhi. He was kept in police custody for nearly six months.
Kamran’s grandfather Mohammed Yusuf said: “Kamran had worked for publications like Great Kashmir, Kashmir Uzma and local TV channels like Gulistan TV. Journalists would never have shown support for Kamran if he was involved in stone pelting. CPJ (Committee To Protect Journalists) urged India on Friday to drop charges against arrested Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yusuf immediately and release him. The organisation also said Yusuf’s works are “public service in the best spirit of journalism.”
The National Investigation Agency in court claimed Kamran Yusuf is not a “real journalist”. A real journalist should cover development activities by the government. Yusuf’s lawyer Warisha Farishat told The Wire that the irony is that though his work is largely based on the conflict in Kashmir, his camera and computer did, in fact, yield a lot of photographs of development projects.
Kamran Yusuf was detained without charge in September last year and then booked as “stone-pelter” in a fresh chargesheet in January 2018. The chargesheet also accused him of “conspiring to wage war against the Government of India” by carrying out “terrorist and secessionist activities”.
Kamran was finally granted bail in March, after having spent over six months in jail. It required CM Mehbooba Mufti to add pressure on NIA to make it happen.
The basic morals of journalism are being killed. Fierce morals which have the power to bring revolution are being killed or being held with traitorous charges. But it is absolutely clear that these types of attacks will only increase the determination and motivation of budding journalists.