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IIOJK in focus

Speakers condemn India over criminalization of freedom of expression in IIOJK

Geneva, March 11 (KMS): Speakers at an interactive dialogue held on the sidelines of the ongoing 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva have castigated the Indian government for its repressive policies intended to criminalize freedom of expression and choking critical voices through new forms of censorship in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

The interactive session hosted by the World Muslim Congress in collaboration with International Women Union was attended and addressed by Kashmiri representatives Altaf Hussain Wani, Sardar Amjad Yousaf, Dr Waleed Rasool, Fahim Akram Kayani, Syed Faiz Naqshbandi, Dr Shagufta Ashraf and others.

Briefing the international audience about the Indian government’s massive crackdown campaign to criminalize freedom of opinion and expression, they pointed out that the apartheid regime’s policy to kill every dissenting voice in the occupied territory involved its three-pronged strategy including silencing democratic dissent, choking critical voices through new forms of censorship, criminalization of journalism and targeting freelancers who report for international media with lawsuits or other forms of intimidation.

They said the free press, which functions as a watchdog to investigate and report on government wrongdoings, was muzzled after being treated as an enemy of the state. They said that since August 2019, the denial of access to information, censorship, harassment, arbitrary detentions and attacks on journalists were alarmingly frequent. “Not to talk of political workers, even journalists, civil society activists and rights defenders were booked under sedition charges for raising their voice against the ongoing bloodshed, repression and use of excessive force by the Indian state,” they.

The Kashmiri journalists, the speakers said, have suffered numerous press freedom violations ranging from killings, torture and kidnapping, arrests and detentions under black laws. The undue restrictions imposed under media policy 2020, they said, had a chilling effect on the objective reporting, while on the other hand, it enabled the government to paddle its own narrative by spoon-feeding the news of its own.

They said media freedom has been deteriorating fast in Kashmir ever since Modi took the reins of power in New Delhi. “The people’s right to freedom of expression has come under unusual pressure in Kashmir, especially after the Indian government enforced draconian laws such as UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) and other laws in Kashmir,” they said, adding that these lawless laws have helped the Indian government to throttle free-media and silence critical voices who refused to toe the government line.

“Harassment, intimidation and reprisals remain the widely used tools to suppress the freedom of oppression,” the speakers said, adding that the authorities at the helm of affairs have increasingly targeted freelancers and local portals for a fairer coverage of the situation in Kashmir. They said that government-backed militias and so-called investigating agencies have frequently raided homes and offices of pressmen in Srinagar to create a climate of fear.

Referring to the illegal detention of Hurriyat leaders and prominent Kashmiri human rights defenders, the speakers said, “Political leadership and human rights advocates who have been critical of India’s repressive policy towards Kashmir have been booked under trumped-up charges and thrown in jails.”

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