India's government is muzzling media in occupied Kashmir as part of the lockdown it imposed on the region a month ago, according to a new report by two rights networks.
The study comes after New Delhi revoked India-occupied Kashmir's special autonomy on August 5 and sent in tens of thousands of extra troops to reinforce the half a million that were already posted there.
Published earlier this week, the study said reporters were being subjected to surveillance, informal investigations and harassment for publishing reports considered adverse to the government or security forces.
Titled “News Behind The Barbed Wire”, its findings reveal “a grim and despairing picture of the media in occupied Kashmir, fighting for survival against the most incredible of odds". It also highlighted that recent editorials in major papers published in occupied Kashmir covered only harmless topics, such as the benefits of Vitamin A and “Should you consume caffeine during summer?”
"This is intrinsically undemocratic and harmful, as it privileges the voices of authority and weakens those who speak truth to power,” the report said of the situation faced by the media in the occupied territory.
Published by the Network of Women in Media, India and the Free Speech Collective, the report was prepared by two journalists who spent five days in occupied Kashmir and spoke to more than 70 journalists, local administration officials and citizens.
An official in the Information and Broadcast Ministry told AFP on Friday it could not offer any immediate comments as it had yet to see the report.
The government has also restricted movement and curtailed phone and internet services, ostensibly to control unrest in the occupied region.
The Indian government says bringing occupied Kashmir under its direct rule will boost the economy and generate more jobs. It also insists the situation is calm and normal and that the curbs are being eased gradually.
Since August 5, at least 500 protests and incidents of stone throwing have occurred and some 4,000 people have been detained, according to multiple sources.