Police Officer Who Thrashed Journalists Transferred

KO Photo By Abid Bhat

Srinagar: Hours after Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh ordered immediate action against him, the Jammu and Kashmir police on Wednesday removed a middle rung officer from his position for beating up journalists during a Muharram procession in this capital city on Tuesday.

Shergarhi police station SHO Aftab Ahmad Bhat was among nine officers shifted from their places of posting by Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Srinagar Sandeep Chaudhary.

Bhat had allegedly beaten up photojournalists on Tuesday while they were covering the Muharram procession.

Earlier in the day, the Director General of Police (DGP) had directed the Srinagar SSP to take immediate action against the erring officer.

"DGP J&K Sh Dilbag Singh takes serious view of undesirable behaviour with some media men in Srinagar yesterday. SSP Srinagar directed to take immediate action against the erring police officer," the Jammu and Kashmir Police said on its official Twitter handle.

The attack on journalists evoked criticism from various quarters.

The police also detained a few Shia mourners at Jehangir Chowk in the city as they tried to take out a procession to mark the eighth day of the 10-day Muharram mourning period.

As the media personnel, mostly photo and video journalists, were discharging their professional duties, police swung into action and lathicharged them.

The policemen, armed with batons, also thrashed some of the journalists and damaged their equipment.

Police ‘Abused’ Their Authority: CPJ

Expressing concern over the attack on journalists by police during a Muharram procession in Srinagar on Tuesday, the international media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has asked Jammu and Kashmir government to order a probe and hold those responsible to account.

“Jammu and Kashmir police abused their authority today by attacking journalists who were simply doing their jobs and documenting an event of public interest,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C.

“The Indian government must take immediate action against those involved in this violent act, and send the message that police must allow journalists to do their jobs without interference,” he added.

Quoting news reports and journalists, the CPJ spokesperson said that the incident occurred when police officer Aftab Ahmad entered into an argument with Waseem Andrabi, a photographer with the Hindustan Times newspaper, over the presence of news media at the procession, which had been banned by the government

“Ahmad shoved Andrabi during the confrontation, and when Burhan intervened to try and calm the situation, Ahmad ordered police officers to attack Burhan and other journalists, according to Burhan and Free Press Journal freelance reporter Sajjad Hameed, who was also at the scene,” the spokesperson said.

The Police officers, he said, are seen beating and chasing a group of journalists in videos and images shared on Twitter. Journalists told CPJ that they sustained minor injuries during the scuffle, and at least one reporter’s camera was broken.

According to the CPJ spokesperson, Burhan and Hameed told the media watchdog that officers hit them each a few times on their legs and arms; Burhan sustained bruises on his right leg, and Hameed bruises on his left leg and right arm.

“Hameed also told CPJ that officers broke his camera during the assault.

Police attacked between 10 and 15 journalists, Hameed told CPJ. CPJ was unable to immediately identify all of those journalists or the extent of their injuries,” the spokesperson said.

Quoting freelance journalist Hameed, the CPJ said that the police stopped their assault after BBC Urdu photojournalist Shafat Farooq sat on the ground in protest, and was joined by other journalists, and videos of the incident shared online. The video of the incident, he said, shows a police officer charging toward Farooq with a baton as he sits, but the officer is stopped by a superior

“I decided I will not run away. The police can do whatever they want. We were doing our job and they have no right to assault us like this,” Farooq told CPJ.

The CPJ spokesperson said that calls and texts to police officer Aftab Ahmad and senior superintendent of police (SSP) Srinagar were made but no immediate response was received. (PTI)

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