A Kashmiri photojournalist who has been in jail for five months after being arrested by the Indian National Investigation Agency has been charged with sedition and attempting to wage war against India, while international press organizations continue to call for his immediate release.
Kashmiri Photojournalist Kamran Yousuf was arrested in September 2017 on charges of "stone-pelting." Since the death of Militant Leader Burhan Wani in July 2016, demonstrators throwing stones at security forces has become more common. Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists contends that authorities have engaged in detaining journalists in an attempt to re-establish control, which they believe to be the true reason for Yousuf's arrest. Yousuf contributed to the Greater Kashmir newspaper for three years, but the National Investigation Agency claims that he is not a "real journalist/stringer by profession" because he had no formal training and had chosen to "only cover the activities which are anti-national and earn money [from] such footage."
While CPJ says Yousuf's work documenting conflict in Jammu and Kashmir makes clear his photojournalistic legitimacy, the government agency argues that Yousuf did not satisfy the "moral duty of a journalist”:
Had he been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty [sic] of a journalist, which is to cover the activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction. He had never covered any developmental activity of any Government Department/Agency, any inauguration of hospital, school building, road, bridge, statement of political party in power, or any other social/developmental activity by state government or Govt of India.
It's not clear how Yousuf's charges changed from stone-pelting to sedition, criminal conspiracy, and attempting to wage war against India, but the agency argues that his choice of subject matter indicates his intention to work against the government. Multiple national and international bodies have issued statements against the charges and called for his immediate release. His next hearing will likely occur this week.
Lead image by Pixabay user qimono, used under Creative Commons.