Photojournalists working with Al Jazeera, Zuma ‘beaten, detained’

Two photojournalists, including a foreign national on Friday were allegedly detained, beaten to pulp by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and policemen during pro-freedom demonstrations in the Old City of Srinagar.

Eyewitnesses told Kashmir Dispatch that Showkat Shafi, who works as a freelancer with Al Jazeera English website and his Mexcian friend- California-based Zuma Press photojournalist Narciso Contreras were allegedly thrashed to the pulp and later detained by the joint team of CRPF and police, when the duo were covering stone pelting protests in Nowhatta area of the Old City this afternoon.

The photojournalists, they said, were dragged by the forces to the police station Nowhatta, where they were detained ‘illegally for over five hours’.

Both the photographers received serious injuries due to the beating. They were rushed to the SMHS hospital by their colleagues when released by police ‘in an injured and traumatic condition’.

“We were performing our professional duty, when a contingent of CRPF men intercepted us in a lane. Without saying a word they pounced on us. They not only abused us, but beat us with bamboo sticks and gun butts for over 15 minutes,” a visibly shocked Shafi told this correspondent at the SMHS hospital, where he was brought by his colleagues.

The doctors at the hospital later referred Shafi to SK Institute of medical sciences for specialized treatment.

“We were later dragged to the police station. For 5 hours, we were detained. The cops didn’t even stop beating us inside the police station,” he added.

The forces, he said, were furious with their coverage of the protests.

“We were released in injured state. My friend has suffered multiple injuries in the forces action,” he said.

Contreras alleged that besides beating him ruthlessly police took away Rs 50,000 from his bag in the police station.

Meanwhile, police refuted the allegations and said that two photojournalists were released after being detained along with a few stone pelters inside a shop.

“Youth pelted stones on CRPF and our men. When chased, some of them entered a shop. At least six people were arrested from the shop, two among them later turned out to be photojournalists. They were released instantly,” Superintendent of Police (SP) North, Showkat Shah said.