The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) has come out in support of Masrat Zahra, a Srinagar based photojournalist who is being mercilessly attacked and threatened on social media for posting a picture of herself covering an encounter between the Indian Army and alleged extremists. Here is a statement released by NWMI.
Image courtesy Masrat Zahra’s Facebook profile.
The Network of Women in Media, India, stands in solidarity with photojournalist Masrat Zahra, who is being subjected to online abuse and intimidation for carrying out her journalistic duty.
On 15 May, 2018, Masrat Zahra, a female freelance photographer based in Srinagar posted a photograph titled ‘Gun vs Camera’, which shows her at work, covering an encounter between the Indian Army and a group of militants in Kachdoora, Shopian. The photograph, where Masrat is seen amid the four army personnel while covering the gunfight, was taken by a photographer colleague. She was also injured on the same day when the house was burned down during the gunfight and the photographers were asked to run for cover.
Soon, Masrat’s post received a comment labelling her as a ‘Mukhbir’ or informer. This defamatory screenshot referring to Masrat as an informer who works for the army got viral within no time. Such vicious and irresponsible labelling of a journalist in an already polarised political climate is dangerous and must be unequivocally condemned.
Multiple Facebook pages shared the photo, used sexist and abusive language and called her a spy, traitor and collaborator. This was followed by online harassment in the form of threats, abuses and intimidation.
The online abuse and threats have created immense fear and mental stress for Masrat, who is a student of central university of Kashmir studying convergent journalism. She also works as a freelance photographer and contributes to Hong Kong-based Editorial Photo Agency.
The NWMI is deeply concerned about the threats and abuse directed at a young woman photojournalist carrying out the important journalistic duty of informing the public about current happenings in Kashmir. She must be allowed to carry on her studies as well as her professional duties without fear.
The NWMI demands that:
- The cyber-crime cell of the police takes action against the perpetrators of the online abuse
- Social media platforms such as Facebook step up measures against violent and abusive content