Days after Press Council of India (PCI) chairperson Markandey Katju shot off a missive to chief minister Omar Abdullah over beating up of journalists while covering Kashmir protests, the chief minister on Friday assured a response in a letter to the PCI and sought framing of a code of conduct to avoid any such incidents.
"You can read my reply to him (Katju) in a newspaper tomorrow. I intend to work closely with Justice Katju to avoid such situations," tweeted Abdullah.
Several photojournalists were beaten up allegedly in a "target attack" by security forces on previous Friday while covering shutdown and protests in downtown Srinagar.
After condemnation of the attack on the press from several national and international media groups, Katju wrote to the chief minister. "The paramilitary forces and police in all States/Union Territories must be instructed not to commit any violence on media persons, otherwise they will face criminal proceedings which the Press Council will launch against them," wrote Katju in the letter.
In New Delhi, Abdullah on Friday responded and sought framing of a "suitable code of conduct" from the PCI. "Journalists who wish to plunge into crowds to get the perfect photograph should wear brightly coloured jackets/bibs so that they can be identified easily by the law enforcing agencies...Unless you take the initiative to make it easier to identify journalists/camera persons in such situations, I'm afraid we will always run the risk of such mistakes happening again," said Abdullah.
But in Srinagar journalists are least impressed. "I was covering protests when security forces pounced on me and hit me with a stone and hurled choicest abuses. Later, when I disclosed I work with a Hindi newspaper, the police took me to local police station saying they will teach me a lesson. I was slapped inside the police station and left bleeding. Later I was handcuffed with heavy chains and taken to a hospital. The intention of the police was humiliation. They were well aware that I am a media man," Shahid Tantray told the Hindustan Times. "my camera was deliberately hit on the ground to damage it completely," he said. Tantray neck has been fractured too.
The police report, however, has a completely different version. It says the police found a camera lying on the ground unclaimed that day and later it was identify by the owner. The valley journalists organised several protest marches and sit-ins following targeted attacks on them. The photo journalists earlier this year were barred from entering into downtown Srinagar to cover protests. Even DGP Kuldip Khuda's intervention failed to discipline the police force with covers of impunity and political patronage.