Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): Slammed the brutal repression of media in Kashmir.
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By Syed Ali Mujtaba, Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer, TIO: As India holds the G20 meeting in Srinagar, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has slammed the brutal repression of media in Kashmir.
Press freedom remains under attack even as India tries to project normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir during G-20, said CPJ in its Twitter handle.
The New York-based media watchdog condemned the arrests of journalists in the Union Territory. “CPJ calls on the Indian government to end its brutal crackdown on the media and immediately release the four arbitrarily detained Kashmiri journalists,” the group said in a statement.
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The journalists it wants to be freed are; Asif Sultan, Fahad Shah, Sajad Gul, and Irfan Mehraj. Sultan was arrested in 2018 under the UAPA. He was targeted for the stories he wrote. Fahad Shah was arrested in February 2022 under the UAPA law for “glorifying terrorism.”
Sajad Gul was arrested under the Public Safety Act in January 2022 for spreading “false narratives” about India’s rule in J&K. Irfan Mehraj was arrested for his association with a local human rights group, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
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All four journalists have been sent to prisons outside Indian-administered Kashmir, making it difficult for their families to visit them.
Commenting on the G-20 event in Srinagar, Geeta Sesu, co-founder of the Free Speech Collective, an advocacy group for freedom of speech in India said, “The barricading of security bunkers behind cheerful and scenic pictures of Kashmir for the G-20 meet is a good illustration of the condition of press freedom in the valley.”
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“Journalists are jailed and their mobility and access to the news and the newsmakers are severely restricted,” She added.
Press freedom worsened in the J&K after August 5, 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi abrogated Articles 370 and 35 A and converted the state into a Union Territory. The legislature remains in suspended animation and it is governed under New Delhi’s direct control.
“The Srinagar Press Club remains shut down and its keys are with the government officials,” said a local journalist said on the condition of anonymity.
“There are several publications coming daily but the news comes from the Raj Bhavan and it is all about glorifying the New Delhi developmental agenda in J&K.
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“Jai ho Delhi Darbar,” is the brief that the media is tasked here; any violation of it is met by the state repression.” No contrarian’s voice is tolerated in the current atmosphere.
“We are operating in a climate of fear since 2019 as homes of several journalists have been raided and they have been summoned by the police for questioning,” said the same source.
India is ranked 161 among 180 countries by “Reporters Without Borders”, a Paris-based media watchdog in its annual World Press Freedom Index report. India is placed behind countries like Afghanistan (152), Pakistan (150), and Somalia (141). This is the lowest rank India ever got in the press freedom index.
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This press ranking is questioned by India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar who said; “I was amazed at our number. I thought we had the most uncontrollable press, and somebody is getting something fundamentally wrong. “Afghanistan was freer than us. Can you imagine?
He called the entire exercise as ‘mind games.’ “See the democracy index, freedom index, religious freedom index, and press freedom index. These are the ways of playing mind games which are like lowering the rank of the country that you don’t like while others do not,” he added.
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