Complete Blackout: Journalists Unable To Report As Occupied Kashmir Is Under Siege
Restrictions on movement and a communications blackout in Indian-held Kashmir have made it impossible for journalists to perform their duties, as Al Jazeera in a report said most English and Urdu language newspapers based in Srinagar have not published their editions since Monday.
Al Jazeera cited a journalist who said he was barred from taking videos and images by Indian soldiers.
With internet cut off, journalists working for news websites said they had not been able to update their pages since Monday, missing the biggest political development in Kashmir in the past seven decades.
And the journalists and photographers, who work for news organisations outside Kashmir, said they had to send their reports and photos through USB drives carried by people flying out of the region.
“For the past two days, The Indian Express reporters have been holed up in their office from where they walk around to meet residents and then return. In the office building itself, dozens of policemen have moved in, the corridors their temporary shelter,” wrote journalist Muzamil Jaleel on his Facebook page after he was able to reach New Delhi from Srinagar on Tuesday. “Kashmir has been turned invisible even inside Kashmir,” Jaleel wrote.
For journalists in the region, the blockade is unprecedented as even in most turbulent times they were able to file stories and reports, unlike now.
“We have now stopped going out. We fear for our lives. I was told by forces on the road that journalists are not allowed to move. This country cannot call itself to be a democracy,” said a journalist who works for an Indian newspaper.
A photographer who works for an international news agency said he wanted to document the restrictions in the city but was told by security forces to leave before his camera was broken.
A foreign journalist who had arrived in Kashmir a week ago and was given permission by the Ministry of External Affairs said police arrived at her hotel in Srinagar on Saturday directed her to leave immediately.
“I was scheduled to stay but they insisted I leave immediately and I was forced to book my ticket and leave on Sunday morning,” she said.
Meanwhile, newspaper hawkers said they were denied curfew passes by the security forces.
“We are helpless. Even we don’t know what is happening. For the locals, it’s even worse. We don’t know if people are being killed or detained,” said a Kashmiri female journalist.
On the other hand, the United Nations Human Rights spokesperson has expressed “great concern” over the information blackout in Occupied Kashmir.
In a statement shared on Wednesday via a video on Twitter, the spokesperson said that what had already been observed to be a pattern was taken to a “new level” with the latest restrictions placed by India which he said “will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region”.
“We are seeing again blanket telecommunications restrictions, perhaps more blanket than we have seen before.”
“These restrictions will prevent the people of [Occupied] Kashmir and their elected representatives from participating fully in democratic debate about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir,” it observed.
“The fact that hardly any information at all is currently coming out is of great concern in itself,” the statement concluded.