April 13, 2024

Moon Desk: Indian authorities have blocked access to the independent Kashmiri news outlet The Kashmir Walla, the Srinagar-based outlet says. “On August 19, we woke up to another deadly blow of finding access to our website and social media accounts blocked,” The Kashmir Walla says its website and social media accounts have become inaccessible in India. Indian authorities have blocked access to the independent Kashmiri news outlet ‘The Kashmir Walla, the Srinagar-based outlet says.

Social media users and Indian news outlets posted screenshots of a message saying. “The website has been blocked as per order of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under IT Act, 2000.” There was no immediate comment from the Indian government. The Kashmir Walla staff said access to the site’s account on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, had been blocked. “We have been served an eviction notice by the landlord of our office in Srinagar and are in process of evicting,”

The website’s founding editor, Fahad Shah, was arrested by Indian police under an “anti-terror” law last year. He was accused of “glorifying terrorism” and “spreading fake news”, amid an intensifying crackdown on press freedom in the Himalayan region. “The State Investigation Agency (SIA) raided office and Shah’s home in Srinagar. During the raid, most of gadgets were seized, reporters were interrogated, and all documents were scrutinized.” Sajad Gul, a Kashmir Walla contributor, was arrested in relation to social media posts last January and remains in a prison in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh under the Public Safety Act.

A number of Kashmiri journalists have been arrested, questioned and investigated in relation to their work since India’s Hindu nationalist government scrapped the region’s special status in 2019. The news portal said it was not aware of the “specifics” of why it has been blocked in India. “We have not been served any notice nor is there any official order regarding these actions that is in the public domain so far.

In a post on X, Jammu and Kashmir’s former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said “one of the few portals that dared to speak truth to power” had been silenced. DIGIPUB News India Foundation, a collective of Indian news organisations, said the closure of The Kashmir Walla without any prior warning was “yet another act of intimidation of journalists in Kashmir” and that journalists “live with the fear of being jailed for lengthy periods under stringent laws”.

“In this environment where they can no longer rely on individual liberties and freedoms guaranteed in the constitution, reporters have left the field.

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