Journalists struggle under India’s blackout in Kashmir

Srinagar, Kashmir—Monday: Kashmir press club stated since August 5 last year, while Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir was annihilating of its political sovereignty, the administration “is not enabling journalists and media to operate freely”.
A statement issued following a meeting of the club that has more than 270 members said: “As if the six-month internet shutdown was not enough, physical attacks, threats, and summons to journalists are being employed by security agencies to intimidate journalists”.
The meeting was summoned two days after Haroon Nabi, a local news agency’s reporter and Naseer Ahmad Ganai, working for Indian newsmagazine outlook were inquired at the key counterinsurgency center of Kashmir police, known as Cargo, in Srinagar on Saturday.
Both journalists posted a declaration by the barred separatist organization Jammu and Kashmir liberation front demanding a strike on Feb 9 and Feb 11 to commemorate the death anniversaries of Afzal Guru, who was sentenced to death for his suspected role in an assail on Indian parliament, and Maqbool Bhatt, the front founder who was executed by hanging in 1984.
Both said they were asked to unveil how they got the declaration-which was circulated to all the journalists and news organizations via e-mail- apart from information about their close relatives and families.
A statement said “Harassment and questioning of journalists in Kashmir by the police on flimsy grounds is a damning verdict on the appalling conditions in which the media is operating”, which is the most robust argument in the last six months.
There were references to Irfan Amin Malik (picked up from his house on 14th Aug 2019 by policemen and held in custody for one night); Peerzada Ashiq (interrogated by police and pressurized to unveil sources of my anecdote on imprisonments); Zubair Dar and Muzamil Matoo (abused in November while capturing prayers at a shrine); and Azaan Javaid and Anees Zargar (tortured by police while covering a protest by student).
The club statement said, on November 30, Hakeem Irfan from economic times and Basharat Masood from Indian express were called on to the cargo center and “grilled by the police for their stories”. The two journalists were halted by the police on Dec, 23 while researching a story in Handwara and taken to the police station where they were told they “are trying to provoke people”.
The interrogation of the duo stimulated a delegation of journalists to meet up a leading police official. A reporter present in the meeting told on condition of anonymity that the police officer met the delegation in a very “genial manner” that “everybody is behaving well”.
The reporter told, “He said ‘but only media and militants are not behaving well’”.
Till January 25, while low-speed internet was reinstated on devices with a condition of access to government websites only, the journalists have been enforced to work within a government facility that had only 11 computers. Normally, 250 to 300 journalists worked in the center on a regular basis.
Hamid said “By making all journalists work under one roof, making them struggle for a few minutes of internet access, the government ensured journalism produced in Kashmir is very limited. We felt we were being watched every minute. And you couldn’t protest because the assembly of more than four people in a public place was a criminal offense”, who made a request to be called by middle name only.
Hamid stated that the availability of the internet has made the journalists’ job harder. Many local news reporters have been required to assure that they will not use social media and any website without the government’s authorization.
An English Daily’s journalist told the news agency, “I did not sign the undertaking. I told my boss that I would rather not use the office internet because this undertaking is very humiliating”.
The journalists said the administration is leaving no stone unturned to maintain and build pressure on journalism, while referring to instances of two newspapers, Kashmir Reader and Greater Kashmir as they were deprived of all government ads since Aug 4. The publication of two newspapers was banned for three months in 2016 and ads have not been released as yet.
The news agency is trying to get access to top police officials to post their version of story and will update once their declaration is on hand.–Worldwide News

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