Pakistan's Premier Multilingual News Agency

IOJK: Hell for Journalists

Adeel Mukhtar

Adeel Mukhtar

Journalists are facing threats from Indian authorities in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJK). The J&K Police have registered cases against two journalists including The Hindu correspondent for J&K and an independent woman journalist. The case against Peerzada Ashiq of The Hindu, police said, was registered after “an information was received regarding a fake news item published in the newspaper by the journalist regarding an encounter at Shopian and subsequent developments.”

International Press Institute (IPI) has published a report on press freedom in IOJK that did not bring any good news regarding human rights in IOJK. According to the report, Journalists in IOJK are “under a serious threat from security forces”. The report raised many concerns regarding  the weary and teary condition of journalist in IOJK-Muslim-majority region. The media watchdog advised India to shun activities that are abusing human rights and harassment of journalists since the revocation of IOJK’s special status last August. “Journalism in Jammu and Kashmir is under a dramatic state of repression,” Ravi R Prasad, director IPI, said in a statement. “The state is using a mix of harassment, intimidation, surveillance and online information control to silence critical voices and force journalists to resort to self-censorship.”

Al Jazeera also did a story on human rights abuses in IOJK. It interviewed Naseer Ganai, an IOJK based Journalist, who told Al Jazeera that he was interrogated for four hours by the counterinsurgency forces on February 9, 2020. He said that “they called me and took my phone, my laptop. They told me they want to check where do statements or mails for stories come. I don’t know what they did with my phone and laptop”. “They kept me interrogating for hours. This means in this place even my phone or laptop is not my own. They can call anytime and take it. There is no privacy to work for journalists here, this is mentally very disturbing.” The incident was completely shocking for Ganai.

IPI report is a reminder of India’s inhumane lockdown of IOJK. Moreover, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) demanded that the authorities should stop harassing journalists in IOJK. “In these critical times in Jammu and Kashmir, police must stop harassing and questioning journalists and allow them to do their jobs without fear of reprisal,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s researcher. “The Indian government should lift all remaining internet restrictions and let journalists get back to work.”

It was also demanded by the IPI that India should lift the lockdown in the Valley and restore internet and social media services. “Working without internet or only with restricted internet has severely hindered journalists from reporting about developments in remote parts of Kashmir … Journalists have been forced to rely on press briefs issued once or twice a week by the state government, without possibilities to verify the stories,” the report said.

“Press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir is under serious threat from the security forces and the regional administration since August [2019],” the IPI statement said. IOJK’s journalist’s Kashmir Press Club said “there have been at least 10 incidents of harassment and intimidation faced by journalists at the hands of security forces.” A multimedia journalist Masrat Zahra depicts the present situation as extremely challenging to cope with. “For me, the curbs continue and there are hundreds like me. The situation continues to be a challenge,” she said. “There is some relaxation like phone and internet works now but it’s very slow. I can’t do any work. It’s frustrating. I still have to travel to send an email for my work. It’s still tough,” she said. Similarly, Club’s vice president Moazam Muhammad said that “there are still cases of journalists being harassed by the authorities, their equipment is being snatched and they are being asked to collect them from police stations. We witnessed two such cases recently,” he said. “We have taken up the cases with the government but there has been no action or response from them.”

Since the release of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’ report, earlier in June, documenting gross Human rights violations in IOJK, frustration in Indian strategic and policy circles has increased manifolds. Despite the calls from International community to restore the provision of fundamental human rights to the Kashmiri people, India has become more brutal in its tactics towards dealing with the peaceful protests. Since 1988, Indian Forces have intensified ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kashmiri people. Houses are being burnt, people arrested, tortured, raped and killed. So far, nearly 100,000 killings have been done by Indian occupation forces.

The media while uncovering the hoax local bodies decision in IOK, must extend the enduring of the Kashmiri individuals. Despite being subjected to the worst type of tyranny at the hands of Indian occupation forces, the people of Kashmir have developed a firm belief that ‘now there is no way back’. The on-going Intifada in Occupied Kashmir is, in fact, a natural and indigenous reprisal from oppressed Kashmiris. They (Kashmiris) are now fully prepared to sacrifice everything to liberate themselves from Indian usurpers and their tyrannical suppression that has been exacted on them for decades.