SRINAGAR - A leading newspaper journalist and editor in Indian-occupied Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Srinagar on Thursday.

Bukhari was attacked in his car near the office of the Rising Kashmir newspaper, which he edited, when he left for Iftari. He was taken to hospital but was later declared dead.

One of his guards was also killed in the attack and another is critically injured, police told journalists. No group has claimed the killings.

Shujaat Bukhari had just entered his vehicle outside his office in the city’s press enclave when assailants fired several shots from close range. “He (Bukhari) is no more. One of his two police bodyguards also died in the attack,” a top police officer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another police guard and the vehicle driver were critically wounded in the attack.

Fellow journalists were on the scene soon afterward. Bukhari was slumped over in the back seat, and one of the police bodyguards had a gruesome head wound.

Bukhari was a protected journalist, guarded by two armed police around the clock, in an area of India where political violence and threats to reporters is common.

His final tweet, sent just a few hours before his murder, was a link to his website’s reporting of the UN human rights chief calling for a major investigation into abuses committed by both India and Pakistan in Kashmir.

International media organisations including World Editors Forum (WEF) and Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemned Bukhari’s killing.

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh described Bukhari’s murder as an “act of cowardice”. “It is an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He was a courageous and fearless journalist,” he added.

Witnesses said Bukhari died on the spot while the assailants fled immediately.

The attack comes one day before the end of a unilateral halt in military operations against the rebels for Ramazan. Rebel groups fighting for independence of Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan have rejected the brief “ceasefire”.

Bukhari described the threat to Kashmiri journalists in a 2016 article for BBC. “Threats to life, intimidation, assault, arrest and censorship have been part of the life of a typical local journalist,” he wrote.

 

Media bodies condemn killing

 

The international media organisations including World Editors Forum (WEF) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed deep regret over murder of Shujaat Bukhari and strongly condemned his killing.

WEF President David Callaway noted with regret that only two weeks ago Bukhari visited Lisbon for a media summit and now he is dead. Condemning the murder, Callaway urged the government of India to bring the killers to book.

CPJ deputy executive director Robert Mahoney said in a message, “The killing of Shujaat Bukhari is a profound loss to the journalism community and a blatant attack on freedom of the press.”

He added, “Journalists working in Jammu and Kashmir have long been subject to a range of threats. Authorities must turn this rising tide of risks by thoroughly investigating this murder and holding the perpetrators to account.”

The International Federation of Journalists had also highlighted the perils faced by scribes in the state, saying there was a “need of urgent intervention to protect press freedom and journalists”. Since 1990, there have been several attacks and journalists are walking on the razor’s edge, it noted.

Amnesty India described Bukhari as “a brave and outspoken voice for justice and equality in Jammu and Kashmir”.

“This is a grave attack on press freedom and democratic voices,” the Editors Guild of India added on Twitter.

Several media bodies, including Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association and Federation of Press Clubs of India, Thursday expressed shock over the killing of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari.