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‘Journalism is dead’: IIOJK journalists reveal Modi govt’s crackdown on press

Local newspapers are placed on a newsstand along a road in Srinagar on January 29, 2022. — AFP
Local newspapers are placed on a newsstand along a road in Srinagar on January 29, 2022. — AFP

Press freedom remained a challenge in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu Kashmir (IIOJK) long before the abrogation of Article 370, but the crackdown against Kashmiri journalists exacerbated after the Narendra Modi-led Indian government stripped the occupied valley of its semi-autonomous status in 2019.

A recent report published by BBC, has highlighted the plight of journalists in the disputed region some of whom have been incarcerated for doing their jobs while others are being threatened with either blatant action or microaggressions.

In its report titled ‘Any story could be your last’ —India’s crackdown on IIOJK press by Yogita Limaye, the British publication has sketched the story of the journalists who remain behind bars and at threat from the Narendra Modi-led administration in the valley under siege, detailing the “sinister and systematic campaign to intimidate and silence the press”.

The BBC, in its report published on September 1, wrote about spending over a year working on their investigation into the accusations against the Indian government regarding the suppression of press freedom in the occupied region.

“We had to meet journalists in secret, and they asked for their names to be hidden, fearing reprisals,” the report mentioned.

The BBC added it spoke to over two dozen journalists including editors, reporters and photojournalists, who either worked independently as well as for regional and national media outlets.

The British publication wrote that they all see New Delhi’s actions as a “warning to them”.

Stories of Kashmiri journalists including Asif Sultan, Fahad Shah, Sajad Gul and Irfan Mehraj were mentioned in the report, but the restrictions imposed on others, too, were brought to the fore.

Asif has been jailed for five years now. Fahad remains imprisoned for “propagating terror”. Gul was arrested for his social media video and charged with “criminal conspiracy”. Meraj, meanwhile, was “accused of having links with terror funding”, the report stated.

Over 90% of journalists that the outlet spoke to mentioned being “summoned by the police at least once, many of them multiple times over a story”.

“Some said the tone of the police was polite. Others said they were met with anger and threats,” BBC wrote.

“Journalism is dead and buried in IIOJK,” one reporter told the British news outlet.

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