Abuse, detention, pellet injuries, and an 80% drop in attendance at the media centre: is covering Kashmir becoming even more difficult for journalists?

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Thirty-five days into Kashmir’s “lockdown”—mild jargon for a brutal, undemocratic suppression of fundamental rights in the State—are conditions getting even more tough for journalists to report from the Valley?

The Telegraph, Calcutta, one of the few national newspapers giving adequate space for its Srinagar correspondent Muzaffar Raina to put out the unvarnished view, details the horrors suffered by Rifat Mohidin, a correspondent of the Chandigarh-based The Tribune, at the hands of the security forces on Sunday.

“I had never before heard the kind of abuses they hurled at me. They battered my car with their batons, although the windows were spared. I started crying but none dared come to my rescue.

“I’m still in shock. I have already had a tough time convincing my family that I was safe as a journalist even during these times. If I tell them what happened today, they might not allow me to continue.”

A local newspaper editor Manzoor Zahoor was whisked away after he argued with security forces, and there was an 80 per cent drop in attendance at the media centre in Srinagar, where local and outstation journalists compete for the computer and the phone.

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Azaan Javaid reports for the website The Print that a Kashmiri photojournalist and three other journalists sustained pellet injuries when they were covering a Muharram procession. This incident took place on Saturday.

The journalists said the police used batons to disperse them and chased after them when they attempted to leave the area to stop them from covering the procession. They were caught and beaten with lathis. The camera of a fourth journalist was allegedly broken by J&K Police personnel.

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An injured journalist shows the pellet marks and injuries he sustained. Courtesy: ThePrint

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The Washington Post reported that no foreign journalist had received permission from the Indian government to report in Kashmir since August 5, though Indian citizens who work for foreign news organizations, including The Washington Post, have been able to report from the region.

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But in the la-la world of embedded journalists all is normal in Kashmir. The columnist turned member of Parliament Swapan Dasgupta wrote in The Telegraph that international media coverage of Brexit and Kashmir reflected a “one-sided view”:

“There is a tendency for the media to focus on bad news — since good news is never newsworthy — and Kashmir’s entry into the list of ‘conflict zones’ has meant that ambitious journalists out to make a mark in a competitive profession will be inclined to hunt for horror stories, blow incidents out of perspective, and even be willing to believe outright lies.”

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But more and more independent joirnalists contest the rose-tinted view.

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