International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is observed on November 2, each year around the world, to increase public awareness of the problem and develop remedial measures.
A total of 1418 journalists have lost their lives in the last 30 years around the world, as per data released by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). They were killed while doing what they were passionate about, gathering and disseminating information to their audiences. In 9 out of 10 cases, none has been prosecuted for the crimes committed against journalists.
Between 1992 and 2021, 55 journalists were assassinated in India. There has been an increase in crimes against journalists; in the past three years, 16 have died in the line of duty.
The World Press Freedom Index ranks India 142 out of 180 countries, six places down since last year when it was ranked 136th, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech which India boasts.
In the last three decades, within Indian-occupied Kashmir, at least 19 journalists have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Doordarshan station director Lassa Kaul was gunned down on February 19, 1990, in Srinagar’s Bemina neighbourhood by unknown assailants. The station was shut down for three years after his assassination.
In his Balgarden, Srinagar office on March 1, 1990, Assistant Director of Information P. N. Handoo was shot and killed.
On April 23, 1991, Editor-in-chief Al Safa, Mohammad Shaban Wakil, was assassinated. Vakil’s office was reportedly stormed by unknown gunmen who opened fire on him indiscriminately.
On September 29, 1992, paramilitary forces assassinated Ali Mohammad Mahajan well-known calligrapher who worked for the Urdu newspapers Hamdard and the Daily Aftab and his son Aijaz.
The Joint Director of Information, Syed Ghulam Nabi, was abducted on October 16, 1992, and held captive for four days. His corpse was discovered on October 20.
Mohammad Shafi Bhat, a Radio Kashmir newsreader, was assassinated on October 3, 1993.
Ghulam Mohammed Lone, a freelance journalist, was assassinated on August 29, 1994. His seven-year-old son was also shot dead in their Kangan, Kashmir, home by a group of masked gunmen.
Agence France-Presse and Asian News International photographer Mushtaq Ali was injured when a courier he was trying to open in Srinagar’s Press Enclave detonated on September 10, 1995. Three days after being critically injured, he died.
Editor of Urdu daily Rehnuma-e-Kashmir and English weekly Saffron Times Ghulam Rasool Sheikh went missing on April 10, 1996. His lifeless body was discovered floating down the Jhelum River. A group of Indian troops, according to Sheikh’s family, kidnapped and killed him.
Unknown assailants shot and killed Doordarshan anchor Altaf Ahmed Faktoo on January 1, 1997, in Srinagar.
Unknown assailants shot and killed freelance journalist Saidan Shafi and his bodyguard in Srinagar on March 16, 1997. Shafi worked as a reporter for India’s national broadcaster, Doordarshan TV.
Private television producer Tariq Ahmad was assassinated on April 8, 1997.
A car parked in a lane exploded as the journalists covered the scene of a grenade attack which was carried out moments earlier, killing Hindustan Times photojournalist Pradeep Bhatia on August 10, 2000, in Srinagar’s Residency Road.
Unknown assailants assassinated Parvaz Muhammad Sultan, editor of a local news agency, on January 31, 2003. Sultan was the editor of News and Feature Alliance (NAFA), a Srinagar-based independent news wire service.
A bombing in Jammu’s Doda town claimed the life of senior information department reporter Abdul Majid Bhat on May 9, 2004.
A landmine explosion in Kupwara, claimed the life of Asiya Jeelani on April 20, 2004. Jeelani worked as a freelance journalist for local publications and a human rights activist for the Coalition of Civil Society, a human rights organisation (JKCCS).
Ashok Sodhi, a photojournalist and the Daily Excelsior’s chief cameraman, was assassinated in Jammu’s Samba district on May 11, 2008. Near the Pakistani border, Sodhi got caught in the crossfire.
Javed Ahmed Mir, 35, was assassinated on August 13, 2008, while covering a protest near Bagh-e-Mehtab.
Assailants opened fire on Shujaat Bukhari, Editor of Rising Kashmir, outside his office in Srinagar’s Press Enclave on June 14. Unknown assailants shot at his car, and he was killed instantly.
The Indian government has implemented “media blackouts,” such as the one that took place in 2019 to curtail protests following the abrogation of the semi-autonomous state of Jammu and Kashmir, Protests in 2016 in response to the death of Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces prompted the state to impose the newspaper ban.
“We have witnessed our colleagues getting killed with bullets when the armed conflict was at its peak [during 1990s and early 2000s]. But, now the journalism itself is being killed with selective usage of laws and other methods,” said a local journalist Altaf Hussain, while speaking to Al-Jazeera.
The media has been gagged in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, with uncalled censorship and restrictions on media. The journalists are being intimidated, summoned, and detained for merely carrying out their jobs.
In April 2020, cyber police in Kashmir booked three Kashmiri journalists, Masrat Zahra, Gowhar Geelani and Peerzada Ashiq, under various anti-terror laws. Zahra was suspected of offenses under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)
India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) carried out multiple raids against the Kashmir-based newspapers and local journalists in 2020.
Anuradha Bhasin, the Executive Editor, who had approached the Supreme Court against the communication blockade imposed in August 2020, said, “This was simply done to punish us for speaking the truth.”
CPJ, in a statement, has also pressed upon India to cease detaining and questioning journalists about their work and commit to allowing the media to operate freely and independently.
International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
The United Nations General Assembly has declared international Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in a General Assembly Resolution that urges member states to take concrete measures against the current culture of impunity. Two French journalists were assassinated in Mali on November 2, 2013, and the date was chosen to honour them.
“I urge Member States and the international community to stand in solidarity with journalists around the world today and every day, and to demonstrate the political will needed to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists and media workers with the full force of the law,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, during the main event to celebrate the 2021 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
The 2021 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists highlights the instrumental role of prosecutorial services in investigating and prosecuting not only killings but also threats of violence against journalists, according to UNESCO.
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