PARIS: The Paris-based international media advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF – Reporters Sans Frontiers) has demanded immediate release of illegally detained Kashmiri photojournalist, Kamran Yousuf, who has been arrested by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) and is due to appear before a New Delhi court today (Wednesday) for a decision on his bail application.

Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk in a statement posted on the website of the organization said, “It is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover.” He said, “The contradictory nature of the charges clearly shows that Kamran Yousuf is being used as a scapegoat in order to intimidate journalists who try to document the situation in Kashmir.”

Daniel Bastard said the authorities must free him at once and, above all, they need to understand that it is not the job of journalists to relay their propaganda. “As a result of the constraints on press freedom, Jammu and Kashmir is in the process of becoming a new Tibet, a black hole for news and information,” he said.

A chargesheet produced last week by the NIA claims that Kamran Yousuf is not a real journalist/stringer by profession because he only covered anti-India activities and never covered developmental activity or the inauguration of a hospital or school building.

The RSF said that Kamran was arrested by the police on the pretext that he participated in a protest in which stones were thrown at the Indian forces. “Partly as a result of the repeated violations of the freedom to inform in the Kashmir Valley, India is ranked no higher than 136th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index,” the RSF said.

Meanwhile, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) in a statement strongly reacted to the new definition of a journalist by the NIA that was detailed in the chargesheet of Kamran Yousuf. “If the cops are supposed to define the roles and responsibilities of the journalists, who manage the fourth pillar of democracy, the universities that train thousands of journalists in a year across India must be locked,” the KEG members said. They said, re-defining journalism is usually been seen as an effort by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes and not democracies.

“It has been a long time since Yousuf’s arrest that the investigators have probed almost all angles of his supposed involvement. So far, nothing has been proved as the chargesheet suggests,” the KEG members said. “It is high time that Kamran is permitted to move out of jail and resume his routine and help his mother, the only relation he has, in surviving honourably,” they said.

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