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Kamran Yousuf caught between baseless charges and failed journalist fraternity

On 4 September 2017, Kamran Yousuf a freelance photojournalist working for leading local daily Greater Kashmir, received a call from the local police station to report himself at the said police station. Kamran went to the police station where he was detained and later handed over to National Investigation Agency (NIA).

This was the first time the NIA has arrested people allegedly involved in stone-pelting incidents. NIA had alleged that Kamran was wanted in many cases.

Last month, Committee to Protect Journalists issuing statements had called for his release.

Kamran with Javid Dar (Xinuaha News agency) , Mukhtar Ahmad (AP ).

The arrest was followed by a series of events, a timeline was which was published on With Kashmir.

On 18 January 2018, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday filed a charge sheet against 12 persons, including Kamran Yousuf in a case related to allege funding of terror and anti-state activities in the Kashmir Valley. In this charge sheet against Kamran Yousuf, the NIA listed the “moral duty of a journalist” and observed: “Had he (Kamran) been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty 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, and Bridge, statement of the political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by the state government or Government of India.”

The charge-sheet adds that there was no photo or video of any goodwill activity of army or police taken by him found in his mobile or laptop.
NIA has claimed that Kamran Yousuf is not a real journalist according to their definition of morality about journalism.

Kamran has spent over 150 days in unjust NIA custody, despite South Kashmir police chief said there is no FIR or complaint registered against Kamran in any police station.

Kamran Yousuf rose to fame last year after his pictures and videos of funeral processions and stone pelting battles went viral on social media. Most of the videos taken by Kamran have over 50K views on Facebook and re-uploaded multiple times.

But the moral duty version of NIA is baseless as can be seen on Kamran’s Facebook. He has been felicitated at many government-sponsored events.

According to the NIA, Yusuf was not a “professional” because he did not receive training from any institute. If this has to be taken in consideration, then 90% of Kashmir’s press photographers are not professionals because they have not received training from any institute.

Ironically , all the photojournalists accredited by Department of Information, Government of Jammu Kashmir have never been to any journalism school nor have recieved training from any institute.

Accredited Media List by With Kashmir on Scribd

Senior photojournalist Altaf Qadri who works for Associated Press says, “This is very sad, Kamran has been a target for doing his work. NIA’s allegations are not true because he has covered government functions as well. His name is registered with information department, this can be found out from the Information department.”

Qadri who has worked in Libya, Afghanistan, Nepal apart from Kashmir, said, “NIA claims that Kamran is not professional is stupid. How many journalists/ photojournalists in Kashmir have got training? Even I didn’t go to any photography teaching institute. We have so many seniors in the valley who never studied journalism.”

Qadri also castigated local journalists for not standing by Kamran Yousuf. “Kashmiri journalists have failed him (Kamran) as we could not even lodge a strong protest with the authorities. We failed to stand by our colleague, no matter he was not known to many of us.”

Another senior photojournalist wishing anonymity said , ”it is the descretion of a freelance photojournalist what kind of stories or events he wants to cover”.
‘If the yardstick for being a journalist is a degree , then how come those journalists get accredited who does not ABC of journalism’ he added.

Najeeb Mubarki, a senior journalist and political commentator reacting to the NIA claims, said “It might seem incredible that a coercive arm of the state, the NIA, can actually presume to define what a journalist should be, but there is a long list, which will undoubtedly be added to in the foreseeable future, of utterly incredible things being foisted on Kashmiris, journalists included. That apart, it clearly details what sort of journalism the state has been seeking to engender here, what the basic purpose of the ‘development-sadbhavana’ strategy is and that is hiding and criminalizing the political reality of Kashmir, including the aspect of street protests, for covering which this young, enterprising photojournalist was framed. Third, it lays bare the venal nature of journalism, corresponding exactly to the coercive state’s dictates, many so-called journalists indulge in Kashmir. That is perhaps as disgusting a reality as that of this young man basically being abandoned to his fate by the journalist ‘fraternity’ here.”

“With his camera, he has ruffled the feathers in the establishment so much so that they want to redefine journalism now,” #FreeKamran #StandwithKamran wrote Adnan Bhat a young freelance journalist on his Facebook.

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