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Jailed Kashmiri Editor's News Website Blocked, Forced to Vacate Srinagar Office

Anees Zargar |
The Kashmir Walla’ has been facing back-to-back issues since the J&K police arrested its founding editor Fahad Shah last year.
Kashmir Walla’

Srinagar: Kashmir-based news publication The Kashmir Walla (TKW) has said that the authorities have blocked its website and social media pages with close to half a million followers. The website's employees termed it a “gut-wrenching” censorship in a later statement. 

TKW, a 12-year-old news site, was blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the IT Act, 2000, the employees were told by the service provider on Saturday. 

The news organisation has been facing back-to-back issues, especially since the Jammu and Kashmir police arrested its founding editor Fahad Shah on February 4, 2022. He has been held at a Jammu prison despite calls for his release from several rights bodies, media watchdogs, and top editors.

“For the past 18 months, however, we have lived a horrifying nightmare – with the arrest and imprisonment of our founder-editor, Fahad Shah, and the harassment of our reporters and staff, amid an already inhospitable climate for journalism in the region,” the statement read.

The staff added that they have also been served an eviction notice by the office landlord in Srinagar and are in the process of evacuating the premises.

 Fahad Shah, 34, was booked in three FIRs under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and slapped with the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA). Shah also reported for various Delhi-based and international news publications, including The Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, Time, Atlantic and Christian Science Monitor (CSM) after graduating from London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

In April 2022, the State Investigation Agency (SIA) of the J&K Police raided the TKW office and Shah’s home in Srinagar to investigate an opinion piece published 11 years ago, in 2011. 

“During the raid, most of our gadgets were seized, reporters were interrogated, and all documents were scrutinised. Since then, our interim editor has been summoned and questioned by the SIA multiple times,” the staff added. 

 Before Shah’s arrest, Sajad Gul, a young man who worked with TKW as a trainee reporter, was arrested in January 2022, and has since been lodged in a prison in Uttar Pradesh under the Public Safety Act (PSA). 

The staff added that they were not aware of the specifics of the website’s blocking and the subsequent removal of the website’s Facebook page and Twitter account. 

“This opaque censorship is gut-wrenching. There isn’t a lot left for us to say anymore. Since 2011, The Kashmir Walla has strived to remain an independent, credible, and courageous voice of the region in the face of unimaginable pressure from the authorities while we watched our being ripped apart, bit by bit,” the statement added. 

Media rights bodies and news organisations have said that press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir is reeling under unprecedented pressure, with attempts being made to silence journalists. 

Former J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, slammed the government for the action against TKW. She said the outlet was being targeted for reporting stories from the ground. 

“What a shame. One of the few portals that dared to speak truth to power stands silenced. Fahad Shah continues to be incarcerated for his truthful reportage highlighting ground realities in J&K. Only godi media parroting GOIs narrative and propaganda is allowed to function and flourish,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

Four journalists from Kashmir are currently in jail, including Gul and Shah. Earlier this year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Irfan Mehraj, who is lodged in a Delhi jail. Asif Sultan, who worked for a local news magazine, has been in prison since August 2018. 

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