In a move that has raised concerns about press freedom, the government of India has blocked the website and social media accounts of The Kashmir Walla, an independent news and opinion platform focusing on Jammu and Kashmir.
The website, Facebook page, and Twitter account have been rendered inaccessible to users in India under the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. The action has drawn attention to the region’s deteriorating state of media independence.
Founded in 2009 by Fahad Shah, who is currently imprisoned, The Kashmir Walla has been a significant source of news and analysis centred on Jammu and Kashmir. The platform has consistently reported regional developments, even amid challenging circumstances.
“Fahad Shah, our founder-editor, was arrested in February 2022 over the coverage of a gunfight. It was the beginning of the saga of his revolving door arrests. He went on to be arrested five times within four months. Three FIRs under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and one Public Safety Act have been registered against him,” said a statement by The Kashmir Walla staff.
The four-page dossier giving the grounds for detention of editor Shah used labels like anti-national, anti-India, and an instigator peddling ISI/separatist propaganda. But what is interesting is that the government has provided no proof to back the claims.
Sajad Gul, who worked at The Kashmir Walla as a trainee reporter, is imprisoned in Uttar Pradesh under the Public Safety Act. He was arrested in January 2022 after he had posted a video of his family members shouting anti-India slogans after one of their relatives was killed in a gunfight.
Along with blocking the website and social media accounts, the team has also served an eviction notice for their Srinagar office.
“We are not aware of the specifics of why our website has been blocked in India; why our Facebook page has been removed; and why our Twitter account has been withheld. We have not been served any notice nor is there any official order regarding these actions that is in the public domain so far,” tweeted Yashraj Sharma, the interim editor of The Kashmir Walla.
The situation poses grave questions about press freedom and the ability of media organizations to operate independently in regions facing political challenges.