Masrat Zahra, a former intern Rising Kashmir newspaper and currently working with a Hong Kong-based Editorial Photo Agency faced harassment online after her photo covering a gunfight led to her being labeled as an “informer” for the government forces.
On 15th of May she posted a picture of herself covering a gunfight in Shopian district of the valley which took place on 1st April.
Her picture was soon shared by multiple Facebook pages as well as individuals with abuses, accusations using vulgar language.
In the picture, Zahra is seen standing amid the four army personnel while discharging her professional duties.
Zahra said on April 1st-which was a Sunday- went to click pictures of the floating vegetable market in the Dal Lake.
She says she was not expecting anything much on the day.
“While coming back, I got to know that militants were trapped in Shopian. I left for the spot from the Press Enclave, Srinagar,” she said.
She said, “At the gunfight site locals gathered around me. I was told that we go to the gunfight sites to earn money. They asked me to go home,” she said, adding that they were stuck between the army and the protestors.
That was the time she had started clicking pictures and a fellow photojournalist captured the moment, says Zahra.
She says she was injured after the house of the gunfight was burnt down.
“We were asked to run for cover. As soon as I moved back, my foot slipped and I crashed. My trousers tore off and my knees bled. Also, another journalist fell on my shoulder and the joint dislocated,” Zahra says.
With her dislocated arm she still went to Shopian’s Eidgah for covering the funeral of militant Zubair Turray.
On May 15, while she was going through her photo gallery she came across the picture clicked by her fellow photo-journalist.
Subsequently, she shared the picture on facebook.
“In no time someone commented on the picture. I was labeled as an informer,” she said
“People shared it without checking facts or going through my profile as to who I am. There is some Kamran Manzoor and Khan Burhan who had first shared it. I texted him and I think he lied to me saying that he is a student and has to go to school,” says Zahra, adding that he had immediately changed his profile picture after she approached him.
Meanwhile, support started to pour in for Zahra from prominent journalists and other personalities including Yousuf Jameel, Syed Shujaat Bukhari, and Khurram Parvez to name a few.