ISLAMABAD: Expre­ss-ing profound concern over the muzzling of Kashmiri voices on social media, Cha­irman of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Shehryar Khan Afridi has said that tech giants are denying freedom of expression to people living under the brutal Indian military occupation of Kashmir.

Mr Afridi shared these views during a meeting with Pakistan Telecommuni­cation Authority (PTA) chairman retired Maj Gen Amir Azeem Bajwa at the Parliament House.

He said that the Kashmiris were fighting for a UN guaranteed right to self-determination and gagging their voices was a violation of the UN convention on freedom of speech.

“At a time when world talks about freedom of expression and freedom of speech, it is unfortunate that the voices of Kashmiris are stifled in the name of so-called ‘community standards’,” he said.

Mr Afridi said that the Indian lobbyists and employees of Twitter and Facebook were influencing the social media giants to stifle the voices of Kashmiri activists.

The Kashmir committee chairman said that the misuse of media tools like search engine optimisation, artificial algorithms and sponsored advertisements to suppress the voice of oppressed and deprived communities on social media was immoral by all means.

“It is a pity that the owners of social media sites have given their Indian employees freedom to push Indian agenda on the social media sites and gag voices that question the Hindu fascist agenda in Kashmir,” he said.

Urging the ‘champions of freedom of expression’ to take cognisance of the situation, Mr Afridi said that millions of Kashmiris had been deprived of internet services while the world was a silent spectator.

“High-speed internet services have been blocked for almost one year in Occupied Kashmir while the human rights organisations have been silent over this infringement upon the basic rights of the Kashmiri people,” he added.

He said that the Kashmir Committee would play a bridging role with all the state institutions to protect and promote the cause of Kashmir and it would eradicate the legal and technical hindrances in this regard. He urged Pakistani and Kashmiri citizens to raise their voice on social media platforms for Kashmir as community mobilisation was key to protesting against the social media gags introduced by the managements of Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, the PTA chairman briefed Mr Afridi on the measures taken by the authority to protect the rights of social media activists.

He said that Facebook and Twitter managements had been blocking accounts of Pakistani parliamentarians and civilians for posting on Kashmir and the PTA had been lodging its protest with the platforms.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2020