IIOJK is one of the most dangerous places of the world where people associated with the press and media are performing their professional duties in the most difficult circumstances.According to the latest report by global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, India’s ranking in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index has slipped to 161 out of 180 countries.Since 1989, twenty journalists have been confirmed killed while performing their duties during the Kashmiris’ ongoing liberation struggle. Journalists face manhandling, abductions, murder attempts, harassment, detentions, summoning to police station and death threats by Indian Army, police and other agencies.
Kashmiri journalists and many other scribes while performing their professional duties are roughed up, injured and detained by the troops on fake charges in the territory.Indian Police and sleuths of NIA arrested photojournalists, Kamran Yousuf, on 04 March 2017, Aqib Javeed on 02 July 2019, Khalid Gul on 06 December 2022, and Manan Gulzar Dar on 10 October, 2021, for highlighting the brutalities of the Indian troops during the pro-freedom demonstrations in the territory.
They were later released after long detentions. Another journalist Qazi Shibli was booked under black law, Public Safety Act (PSA) on 08 August 2019 and was released on 23 April 2020. Other journalists including Aasif Sultan, Fahad Shah, Sajjad Gul, Sartaj Altaf Butt and Irfan Meraaj are still facing illegal detentions in different jails of India and IIOJK. Journalists were also not allowed by the authorities to perform their professional duties to write ground situation, news and reports on Indian forces’ cordon and search operation in the occupied territory. A freelance French journalist, Comiti Paul Edward, was arrested by the Indian police when he was video-graphing the pellet victims in Srinagar city on International Human Rights Day (December 10) in 2017.
In an interview, Comiti Paul Edward said that the Kashmiris were facing the worst kind of military repression and human rights violations at the hands of Indian troops and India did not want these happenings in Kashmir to be known internationally. Annie Gowan, Bureau Chief of the Washington Post for India, was restricted by the authorities in a house in Srinagar on 31st July 2018 and was not permitted to move about in the territory for reporting. The Pulitzer-winning Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo, was stopped by Indian immigration authorities at New Delhi airport when she was to take a flight to New York to receive the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in a ceremony there. The freelance journalist Aakash Hassan was barred by the Indian Immigration officials at New Delhi Airport from boarding a flight to Sri Lanka on 26 July 2022 without giving him any reason. Although India has snatched every right including right to freedom of press in the occupied territory, Kashmiri journalists are determined to fight India’s assault on media freedom. Local journalist bodies have called upon the international community to come to the rescue of the Kashmiri journalists. Victimization of journalists in Kashmir has increased manifold since 5th August 2019. In a statement, Amnesty International India said that the arrest of Kashmiri journalist Irfan Meraaj under black law was yet another instance of the long-drawn repression of human rights and the crackdown on media freedoms and civil society in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India said, “Indian authorities should prioritize ending impunity for the human rights violations that human rights defenders and journalists have bravely documented and exposed, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, and ensure that human rights defenders and activists can work in a safe and enabling environment without any fear of reprisals.”