Journalists vulnerable to attacks in Kashmir

The occupational risks for journalists reporting events in Kashmir are extremely high with the number of scribes under attack on the rise in a situation where suppressing the media voices is seen as last resort by groups to sustain violence in trouble torn state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The vulnerability of journalists in Kashmir could be gauged by the fact that on Friday evening unidentified gunmen killed editor of a local news agency NAFA, Parvaz Mohammed Sultan at his office-cum-residence in Press Enclave in Srinagar.

Forty-year-old Parvaz Mohammed Sultan is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son. While editing the noted counter-insurgent Javed Shah’s Urdu daily Wattan for over a year, he was also contributing to the main Indian political party Congress mouthpiece, Qaumi Awaz, and some vernacular newspapers.

NAFA had been prominently carrying proceedings of an insight in the pro-Pakistan militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen for the last two weeks. According to these reports, mostly influenced and promoted by Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies and different groups of Kashmiri militants, two factions of Hizbul Mujahideen had declared war on each other. The NAFA reports mentioned that the Valley-based faction led by senior Hizb functionary Majeed Dar had now overthrown the Pakistan-based faction of Syed Salah-ud-din. These reports sought to recognise Dar as the new Hizb supremo and suggested that he was likely to be “coroneted” in Pakistan-administered Kashmir shortly. Widely believed to have fallen to the dirty agency warfare, Parvaz had earlier released exclusive interviews of prominent militant commanders. No militant outfit claimed responsibility for the assassination He is the first victim of the so-called unidentified gunman’s bullet this year.

Kashmir-based journalists have been under attack since the onset of militancy in 1990. Last year, unidentified gunmen, believed to be militants, had fired upon editor of Srinagar Times Sofi Ghulam Mohammad, editor of New State Reporter Shahid Rasheed and a sub-editor of Kashmir Images Zaffar Iqbal. All the three survived even after having sustained critical injuries.

Two Kashmiri editors, Mohammed Shaban Vakil and Ghulam Rasool, Srinagar correspondent of a Indian national television Doordarshan propaganda programme Syedain Shafi and ANI cameraperson Mushtaq Ali, have been killed in the Kashmir militancy. Senior journalists Yusuf Jameel, Zaffar Meraj and Habibullah Naqash survived murderous attempts on their life. Besides, a New Delhi-based photographer of The Hindustan Times, Pradeep Bhatia, died in a car blast here in August 2000.

Other media-related casualties included director of Doordarshan Kendra Lassa Kaul, announcer of Doordarshan Srinagar Mohammad Altaf Faktoo, television artiste Shameema, freelance producer Mohammad Amin Mahajan, a casual newsreader of Radio Kashmir Srinagar Mohammed Shafi Fariyad besides seven officials of the State Information Department.