Coalition For Women In Journalism condemns persecution of Kashmiri journalists

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The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ), a US-based journalists’ coalition, condemned “the persecution of journalists and the censorship of the press” in Kashmir and called for the government “antithetical to the spirit of democracy” actions to be revised.

Highlighting a “worrying trend of harassment and intimidation of journalists” in Kashmir, CFWIJ noted that after the abrogation the region’s limited autonomy in AUgust 2019, the state instituted a “revised media policy” in the region that gives government officials the power to decide what material can be considered “fake news” or “anti-national”.

At least eighteen reporters were interrogated by the police, and at least twelve have been assaulted, as it was recorded by the Coalition. “This unchecked power in the hands of government officials, an eighteen-month long internet shutdown, and the culture of police brutality in the region has many fearing about the future of journalism in Kashmir,” it said in a statement. “This fear is not unfounded.”

“In instances where the organization refuses to budge under pressures from authorities,” it said, “it appears that individuals associated with said organizations are targeted with harassment.” The Coalition also noted a story published by The Kashmir Walla on army excesses on civilians in Srinagar’s outskirts.

Quoting the newspaper’s editor, Fahad Shah, the CFWIJ reported that “he was pressurized into taking down the story but he stood his ground”.

“Since then he has been summoned to the police station multiple times, has been accused of spreading ‘fake news and inciting violence’, and was detained for four hours by the authorities without cause,” it noted in a statement.

The CFWIJ also noted the cases against other journalists, Masrat Zahra, an independent photojournalist, “intimidation tactics” on Anuradha Bhasin, editor of Kashmir Times, the raids by National Investigation Agency on Parvaiz Bukhair, AFP’s correspondent, and at the office of Greater Kashmir.

The Women Journalist Association also issued a statement that said journalists in the region “often face disrespect and abuses at the hands of government forces. (The association) highly condemns the tactics used by government forces and calls for stern action by the police department. We also call upon the police department to issue a circular (saying) journalists (should) be allowed to perform their job hassle-free.”

The CFWIJ also quoted a report published by the International Press Institute that claimed that press freedom in Kashmir is “under a serious threat from security forces”.

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