FCC Statement on Blocking of The Kashmir Walla in India
|The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong is deeply troubled by what amounts to the forced closure of The Kashmir Walla, one of the last remaining independent news outlets in Indian-administered Kashmir.|
|The Kashmir Walla, founded more than a decade ago and known for its human rights reporting, has faced relentless harassment from Indian authorities since early last year, when its founder and editor, Fahad Shah, was arrested along with trainee reporter Sajad Gul under anti-terror laws. Both remain in prison.|
|On Aug. 19, Kashmir Walla staff discovered that access to their website had been blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and that the outlet’s social media accounts were also inaccessible in India. The outlet says it received no warning and has been unable to find any official order regarding these actions.|
|The Kashmir Walla has since had to vacate its office in Srinagar after being served an eviction notice by the landlord.|
|The intimidation, harassment and arrest of journalists in Kashmir is part of a broader crackdown on civil liberties in the disputed, Muslim-majority region that began in August 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked Kashmir’s autonomy and put it under central government control. The growing pressure faced by journalists in Kashmir and India more broadly is reflected in this year’s World Press Freedom Index, where India fell to 161st out of 180 countries from 150th last year.|
|The FCC urges the government of India, the world’s largest democracy, to explain the actions taken against The Kashmir Walla and respect the right to a free and independent press, which is essential to the functioning of any democratic society. It stands in solidarity with The Kashmir Walla and other independent news outlets in Kashmir, and supports all journalists’ right to do their jobs without fear of harassment or arrest.|
The FCC has also reached out to the Indian Consulate in Hong Kong for further dialogue.