The “arbitrary” blocking of access to the website and social media handles of the news outlet The Kashmir Walla “raises serious questions about the state of press freedom and freedom of expression”, said media bodies.
The Press Club of India, Indian Women Press Corps, Press Association, Delhi Union of Journalists, the Editors Guild of India, and Working News Cameraman Association issued a statement on Thursday, August 24, demanding “immediate restoration” of access to the websites and social media handles of the news outlet.
“The Press Club of India and the undersigned media bodies as institutions dedicated to upholding the principles of free speech, independent journalism, and the democratic values of our country, find the blocking of Kashmir Walla‘s digital platforms unilaterally without citing any reason deeply alarming. The act of blocking access without any prior notice, official communication, or an opportunity for the concerned party to address any grievances is a clear violation of the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution,” the statement said.
The media bodies also said the arrest of the editor of Kashmir Walla “without transparent justification” sends a “chilling message” to journalists across the country. They appealed to the government to allow media professionals to carry out their work without fear of retribution or intimidation.
Kashmir based news outlet The Kashmir Walla’s (TKW) website has been blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the IT Act, 2000, the team has said. The development came soon after the publication’s Twitter handle was withheld in India and their Facebook page was inaccessible.
On February 04, 2022, Fahad Shah, the editor of TKW was summoned to a Police station and later booked under the Public Safety Act. He is currently lodged at Kot Bhalwal Jail.
In a statement, The Kashmir Walla has said that the news publication based in Srinagar that has been covering developments in Jammu Kashmir without fear or favour for more than 12 years.
Several international organisations, including the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Christian Science Monitor have urged the Indian government to release Shah, describing his arrest as “a sharp reminder of the need to strengthen free voices … around the globe.”