Kashmir, MINA – Police in Indian-administered Kashmir raided the homes of four journalists, sparking fears of a further crackdown on press freedom in the disputed region that was stripped of its limited autonomy two years ago.
Following the raid, four journalists were summoned to the local police station in Srinagar, the main city in the region, where they have been interrogated since Wednesday morning. Police did not specify the reason for the raid.
Three of the reporters write for foreign media while one is the editor of a monthly news magazine.
Journalists in Kashmir have long worked under tremendous pressure and have been targeted, some fatally, by the Indian state and armed groups.
Journalists say harassment and threats by police escalated after India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status and divided the territory into two federally-administered territories amid an unprecedented lockdown in 2019.
Many journalists have been arrested, beaten, harassed and sometimes even investigated under anti-terror laws.
“Harassment, raids and interrogation of journalists are becoming the norm in Kashmir. The government makes journalism almost impossible in Kashmir,” one journalist, who works for an Indian newspaper, told Al Jazeera.
Another young journalist from Srinagar said the frequent “attacks and interrogations spread a wave of fear among them”.
“Journalism is really being criminalized. Journalists are not afraid only for themselves but also their families, because they are also being harassed now. So, we risked everything,” said the 29-year-old journalist, who writes for international publications from Kashmir.
The two journalists did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.
Many journalists are now silent on social media.
The Kashmir Press Club, an elected journalist body in the region, has repeatedly urged the Indian government to allow them to report freely, saying security agencies use physical attacks, threats and calls to intimidate journalists and muzzle the press.
Journalists and media watchdogs say the practice of journalism in Kashmir is becoming increasingly difficult. India imposed a controversial media policy in June last year that gave the government more power to censor independent reporting.
Fearing reprisals from government agencies, much of the local press sluggish under the pressure.
As a result, journalists are also under scrutiny through anonymous online threats that the government says are linked to rebels fighting against Indian rule. (T/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)