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August 13, 2020

War on truth

Opinion

August 13, 2020

On the first anniversary of the Indian crackdown on Kashmir, the repercussions for the Kashmiri people are dire. It is said that in time of war, the first casualty is the truth. And while India has not declared war on Kashmir, its brutal repression of that country and its people has caused that ‘first casualty’ to occur.

A free press and free speech are two hallmarks of any democracy and are the major way for people to peacefully initiate governmental change. Thanks to the Indian government, both are in short supply for Kashmiris. Journalists within Kashmir have a very difficult time reporting. They are often summoned by the police and asked about their work.

This tactic of intimidation can’t help but dampen news reported both within and outside of Kashmir. David Walmsley, editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail, commented in 2019 that “Press freedom is often taken for granted in countries where it exists, and is often not considered a priority in countries where it has never existed.”

While it did exist in Kashmir, it clearly no longer does, due to the Indian oppression. Ironically, at the 2019 World News Day, an annual event convened by Canada to celebrate “… the positive impact of professional journalism on their communities”, eight of the forty outlets participating were from India. And World News Day occurred nearly two months after India revoked the ‘special status’ of Kashmir and began its brutal suppression of the people of that country.

India continues to proclaim the falsehood that it serves as a ruler or administrator of Kashmir, when it is, in fact, a brutal occupier. It has become so difficult and dangerous for journalists that often they publish articles under an assumed name.

That is the situation for journalists already in the country. For those seeking to enter, they must obtain permission and, if granted, will be continuously monitored while there. And they are not exempt from the frequent police summons that those already based their experience.

This, of course, does not include Indian journalists who can freely enter and leave as long as they agree to publish the party line, overlooking atrocities committed against the Kashmiri people, and presenting life in Kashmir as very positive, thanks to Indian benevolence. Truth continues to be a main casualty of the brutal occupation.

For any journalist covering what is happening on the ground in any location, a main source of information is the people who are living through the situation. Kashmiris are hesitant to speak to journalists unless they know exactly what organization they write for; the possibility of saying the ‘wrong’ thing to a pro-India journalist is very real, and the consequences can be swift and deadly.

Excerpted from: ‘War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press’.

Counterpunch.org