The human rights organization also demanded to revoke the New Media Policy 2020
UK-based human rights organization ARTICLE 19, who focus on the freedom of expression, have demanded that the Indian government lift the communication shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, and revoke the New Media Policy 2020.
Both the shutdown and policy are not aligned with the commitments India made when ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and are direct violations of basic human rights, the organization said in a statement on Wednesday.
“ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about this ongoing blanket of communication restriction, harassment and intimidation of journalists, and the shrinking press freedom by the Indian government in Jammu and Kashmir, which is a clear violation of international freedom of expression standards in the country,” ARTICLE 19 South Asia Regional Director Faruq Faisel said in the statement.
The gravity of the situation deepens with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic when the world has switched to online platforms for schools, meetings, and businesses, the statement added.
“The [Indian] government has used the pandemic to impose further lockdowns in the region, however, violence over the disputed region has not stopped with the space for press freedom further shrinking. The government of India is tightening the grip over the region to curb any sort of dissent and the state is using frequent intimidation and harassment as a tool to stifle Kashmiri journalists,” it further said.
Many journalists in Jammu and Kashmir have been arrested, detained, and interrogated for reporting under the lockdown, without any legitimate reason given by the authorities, according to the statement.
Quoting Reporters Without Borders, the statement said India’s World Press Freedom Index had dropped due to the communications blackout in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The blackout has made it almost impossible for journalists to cover what is happening in Kashmir, which has become a vast open prison,” it added.
Wednesday, August 5, was the one-year anniversary since the Indian government decided the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, that provided some autonomy to the Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir.