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India Cracks Down on Kashmiri Independent Journalism in Kashmir, Bans The Kashmir Walla

On August 19th, India “blocked” the website and social media handles of a Srinagar-based independent news outlet The Kashmir Walla.

“When we contacted our server provider to ask why was inaccessible, they informed us that our website has been blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the IT Act, 2000,” the statement of the journalists working at the outlet read. The statement further added: “Next, we discovered that our Facebook page – with nearly half a million followers – had been removed. As had our Twitter account, “in response to a legal demand.” In tandem with this move, we have also now been served an eviction notice by the landlord of our office in Srinagar and we are in process of evicting the office.”

The founder-editor of the outlet, Fahad Shah, has been illegally jailed by India since February, 2022, for his journalistic work. Following his arrest, The Kashmir Walla’s office was raided in April 2022 by the State Investigation Agency (SIA) and his residence in Srinagar for an investigation into an opinion piece published in 2011. In the opinion piece, a Kashmiri PhD scholar had advocated for Kashmir’s right to self-determination and criticized India’s military-occupation of Kashmir. During the raid, most of the gadgets used by reporters of the outlet were seized, reporters were interrogated and intimidated, and all documents were scrutinized.

Sajad Gul, another journalist working with the outlet, has also been in jail for his journalistic work, imprisoned under the lawless Public Safety Act. Both Fahad and Sajad have been sent to prisons outside Kashmir, miles away from their homes, making it more difficult for their families to visit them.

In their statement, The Kashmir Walla team stated that “We have not been served any notice nor is there any official order regarding these actions that is in the public domain so far.” They further added: “This opaque censorship is gut-wrenching. There isn’t a lot left for us to say anymore.”

The outlet has now lost access to their website, their social media accounts, and their office, effectively facing an all-out repression at the hands of the state. The case of the outlet, however, is not unique, as many other Kashmiri journalists continue to be behind bars for their press work. The Indian state is at war with the idea of a free press in Kashmir, as has been remarked by media watchdogs like the International Press Institute and Committee to Protect Journalists.

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