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Journalists injured in attack by police and security personnel

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Journalists Assaulted in Northern Kashmir

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned to hear of an assault on journalists by police and other security personnel in the Arampora area of the north Kashmir town of Sopore on December 7.

According to local sources, a number of journalists, part of a large group that had gone to the area to report on local perceptions of the ongoing election campaign in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, were injured in the attack.

The injuries suffered by Mukhtar Khan, of the Associated Press, and Tauseef Mustafa, of Agence France-Presse (AFP), are reported to be serious.

Syed Muzaffar (Srinagar Times), Habib Naqash (Greater Kashmir), Bilal Bazaz (Imarat), Mohammad Afzal (Associated News of India) and Fayaz Kabli (Reuters) were also injured.

According to witnesses, the journalists were covering a street demonstration involving several local residents, mostly young people, who had come out in support of a campaign to boycott the state-wide elections.

Personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) caned the demonstrators and fired numerous teargas canisters.

The IFJ is informed that a senior police official instructed his men to beat the journalists covering the demonstration, supposedly as a means of dispersing the protesters.

After the incident the troops and police enforced strict restrictions over the movement of media personnel covering the polls.

In the old part of Baramulla, also in north Kashmir, a team of journalists from the Etalaat newspapers was threatened by a senior police official, who blamed the media for provoking protesters.

The police also reportedly refused to honour the letter of authority issued by the Election Commission of India, which allows media personnel to enter polling stations.

The IFJ understands that the journalists of Kashmir have lodged a formal complaint with the police in Sopore and that the principal official of the Election Commission in the state has promised to conduct an investigation.

"The IFJ urges the authorities to conclude their investigations at the earliest and institute appropriate sanctions against the officials responsible for these most recent attacks on media freedom," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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