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August 23, 2019

Media rights body urges India to respect press freedom in IHK


August 23, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Media rights organisation Freedom Network has joined global voices to call on the Indian government to respect press freedom in New Delhi-Held Kashmir where phone, broadband and mobile internet services are shut down since special status of the region was revoked on August 5, 2019.

“A total media blackout in Kashmir is tantamount to denial of eight million people’s fundamental rights to know and access information. This situation is totally unacceptable and the Indian government must restore all the necessary services to access information immediately,” Islamabad-based Freedom Network, Pakistan’s first press freedom organisation, said Thursday in a press release.

“The Kashmiri people must exercise fundamental rights having unhindered access to information and any administrative decision to disrupt this access is a criminal act,” the press freedom organisation said.

Freedom Network also extended full support to journalists in Indian-held Kashmir urging the international community to keep supporting press freedom in the region, which is a flashpoint between nuclear-powered neighbours India and Pakistan.

Global media rights groups such Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists have expressed concerns at the situation in Indian-held Kashmir demanding immediate steps to restore communications.

India’s federal National Investigative Agency (NIA) summoned Kashmir Observer daily’s Srinagar-based journalist Aqib Javed Hakim to New Delhi and questioned him on July 14 and 15 over an interview, relating to a sedition case registered against a woman separatist leader, International Federation of Journalists-run SAMSN Digital Hub reported.

CPJ said internet disruption began on August 4, and on August 5 there were reports of a complete communication blackout, with broadband internet, postpaid mobile internet, mobile voice connections across different telecoms, and landline services all blocked.

As India celebrated its Independence Day amid a surge in political tension, RSF “condemned the relentless information warfare” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi began waging 10 days ago by severing all communication in the Indian-Held Kashmir.

“Eight million people have been completely cut off from the outside world for the past ten days in Indian-Held Kashmir, because all forms of communication have been disconnected, including mobile phone networks, landlines, TV and Internet,” RSF said in its statement as latest as August 16.

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