It is shameful and horrific that duties of a journalist are being defined by an investigating agency in India. The comments have come in reference to 22-year-old Kamran Yousuf, a passionate and gutsy photojournalist from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, who has been covering civilian protests, government forces’ excesses against the civilians and gunfights between the rebels and forces among many other newsworthy aspects of the Valley.
“He started working in 2015 and at first did camera for local cable TV new channels and later joined Kashmir times newspaper. He would usually earn 4000-5000 rupees a month. He rode his uncle’s bike to reach to the spots,” says a friend of Yousuf.
Yousuf remains in jail since 5 September 2017 and was charged on 18 January with “sedition, criminal conspiracy, and attempting to wage war against India.” However, the charge-sheet filed by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) has only shown how the case against Yousuf is not about stone-throwing, as he was accused of, but more against his work.
On 15 February, the NIA tells the court, “Had he been a real journalist/stringer by profession,” the NIA says, “he may had performed one of the moral duty of a journalist which is to cover activity 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, Bridge, statement of any political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by the state Government or Govt. of India.”
The above statement only proves Yousuf is a brilliant journalist and has done his job well. In the continuing campaign for release of Yousuf, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program coordinator, Steven Butler, said, “India’s National Investigative Agency is way out of its league and has no business defining what ‘a real journalist’ should cover.”
“Kamran Yousuf’s work taking photographs of conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is a public service in the best spirit of journalism. He should be freed immediately,” Butler added.
I have known Yousuf; went together for stories. I have seen how he works on ground and how passionate he is about his career. Perhaps, working as an honest and committed one got him jailed. A journalist’s job is to point out, investigate, show mirror to those who are at the helm of affairs, and not please or get glued to those who would want to be praised. Journalism is not PR. It is news, the voice between marginalized and rest of the world. A bridge for the suppressed to the world – that is what Yousuf did, for which he is in jail.
In these set of photographs, we have captured the only belongings that Yousuf would have with him to do his job – the work he did as a photojournalist – reaching first at the spot.