The Foreign Office (FO) on Sunday condemned India’s repression of the media in occupied Kashmir and called for an end to the “campaign of harassment and intimidation”.
In a statement issued on World Press Freedom Day, FO spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said: “We express solidarity with the journalist fraternity in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which continues to face a relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation.
“While saluting their exceptional courage, we also honour the sacrifice of those Kashmiri journalists who have laid down their lives in the line of duty. The latest among those martyrs was Shujaat Bukhari in June 2018.”
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The FO spokesperson also expressed appreciation for the work journalists in the occupied valley are doing.
“It is commendable that Kashmiri journalists continue to work with conviction and professionalism, despite the heavy handedness of Indian occupation forces acting with impunity under the draconian Public Safety Act, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
“Global media watchdogs, Indian and international human rights groups, and civil society organisations have expressed deep concerns over unprecedented restrictions imposed on the media, the widespread intimidation of Kashmiri journalists, and the precarious state of their work environment,” she said.
The statement added: “It is clear that the RSS-inspired Bharatiya Janata Party government is motivated by the sole objective of hiding its blatant human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and is bent on muzzling independent voices of the media and journalists.”
According to the spokesperson, the situation has become increasingly alarming since India’s “illegal and unilateral” actions on August 5, 2019, when it revoked the region’s special autonomy through a presidential decree.
The FO called upon India to lift all communication restrictions in occupied Kashmir, withdraw “frivolous cases” against Kashmiri journalists and restore the fundamental freedom of the people of the occupied valley.
In June 2018, Bukhari — a veteran Kashmiri journalist — was shot dead in Srinagar.
He was attacked when he had stepped out of his office and was hit by multiple bullets at close range. A security guard on his protection detail was also shot dead while another was injured.
On April 20, police in occupied Kashmir said they were investigating two journalists for allegedly spreading “fake news”.
Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar had said freelance photojournalist Masrat Zehra, a contributor to various international publications, had been booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for her “anti-national” posts on Facebook and other social media.
Kumar had also said Pirzada Ashiq, a journalist working with the Hindu, had been summoned for publicising fake news in the newspaper about a gun battle in which two Kashmiris were killed.