LFK, SWI report on silencing of journalist, HR activists in IIOJK released in Islamabad

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Whatever is happening in IIOJK is Indian version of 21st century Gestapo; Experts

Islamabad, August 24 (KMS): Legal Forum for Kashmir (LFK) in collaboration with Stoke White Investigations unit, UK, launched a comprehensive dossier on the treatment meted out by India against Kashmiri journalists and Human Rights Defenders.

According to Kashmir Media Service, the dossier titled ‘India Silencing Journalism & Human Rights in Kashmir’ was simultaneously launched, today (Wednesday, August 24, 2022) in Islamabad by LFK and SWI in the UK. In Islamabad, the report was launched at a press conference held at National Press Club, said a press release.

The investigative report by LFK and SWI draws attention to India’s strategy in silencing journalists and human rights defenders in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), where the human rights defenders and journalists are considered as the last line of ‘defense’ for basic human rights protections. Investigations by SWI unit & LFK have uncovered the names of officers responsible for the disruption and detention of journalists and human rights defenders, which will be subject to a broader legal submission. The Indian military and police, in sum, have been instructed by the government with the responsibility of commanding and directing the profiling of journalists and human rights defenders in IIOJK.

LFK and SWI-unit have documented cases of human rights lawyers and practitioners being subjected to home/office raids, disruption of normal workflow, and arrest while on fieldwork or malicious confiscation of travel documents to prevent legitimate journalism or human rights work.

“We saw, only, in 2019, J&K experienced heightened disconnection of high-speed internet, including of mobile phone signal infrastructure for 18 months. In 2020, India restricted the internet some 109 times. According to LFK’s findings, Tahir Ashraf Bhatti is the head of the Counter Insurgent unit, where he summoned many journalists and harassed them for purely reporting on events in Kashmir. The current head of the cyber cell is Syed Sleet Shah, who recently was recruiting “serious candidates” for a special cyber project via her personal twitter account. This has become a norm and many social media users in Kashmir have stopped using their social media and even if they are using, they are absolutely silent in matters of politics and political changes happening in the valley,” the report said.

The speakers in the press conference included Advocate Nasir Qadri, Executive Director LFK; Mushahid Hussain Syed, Member of Senate of Pakistan; Mehmood Ahmed Saghar, Convener APHC-AJK chapter; Ms Mushaal Mullick, Chairperson of Peace and Culture Organisation and wife of jailed Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik; Altaf Hussain Wani, Director Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR); and Dr Waleed Rasool, Director Institute of Multi-Track Dialogue, Development and Diplomatic Studies (IDDS).

The gathering constituted of media fraternity, APHC-AJK leadership which included Shaikh Yaqoob, Imtiaz Ahmad Wani, Mushtaq Ahmad Butt, Zahid Ashraf, Zahid Safi and Mukhtar Ahmad Baba.

Advocate Nasir Qadri, Executive Director LFK, while speaking at the press conference said, the report launched today is testimony based depicting how India is silencing the journalists and human rights defenders in IIOJK. The report includes testimonies of renowned Human Rights Defender Khurram Parvez, and Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, whose testimonies have already been shared with the metropolitan war crimes unit under Universal Jurisdiction in UK.

Mushahid Hussain Syed, Member of Senate of Pakistan, commended LFK and SWI unit for documentation of war crimes perpetrated by Indian authorities in IIOJK. He said, Indian pogrom in IIOJK is on lines with the Israeli unlawful actions against Palestinians. He maintained that Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez’s only crime has been to speak truth against a despotic power. “Despite being a peaceful activist, he was falsely accused of abetting terrorism. Whatever is happening in Kashmir is the Indian version of gestapo in 21st century which brutalizes and eliminates any voices that speak truth,” he said. Quoting noted Indian author Arundhati Rai, he said, ‘An architecture of fascism is being erected in India, and RSS is the only state in India right now’.

Mehmood Ahmed Saghar, APHC-AJK Convener, addressing the gathering condemned victimization of journalists and human rights defenders in IIOJK by India. He further highlighted the plight of Kashmiri prisoners which include Hurriyat leaders, journalists, and human rights defenders. He asked Pakistan to up the ante and take up the cases of Kashmiris being arbitrarily detained by India under black laws, and assure their release as soon as possible.

Ms Mushaal Mullick, wife of incarcerated Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, lauded LFK and Stoke White for publishing a joint report on Indian excesses against journalist and human rights defenders in IIOJK. Calling India as a devil of the time, she urged that all the human rights violations being committed by India in IIOJK must be documented and the perpetrators need to be held accountable. She requested Pakistani media to focus on research-and-evidence-based documentation of human rights violations in IIOJK. Mushaal further said that the Kashmiri journalists and human rights defenders continue to be intimidated, and arbitrarily detained under black colonial laws. She also expressed willingness to present testimony against India under universal jurisdiction.

Altaf Hussain Wani, Director KIIR, highlighted the importance of reports documenting India’s war crimes in Kashmir. All Kashmiri resistance political leaders are human rights defenders as they strive for the rights of the Kashmiri people, he said. Wani maintained that the UN Rapporteur’s tweet condemning the detention of Khurram Parvez is a slap on the face of India’s fascist regime. He urged that the need of the hour is to disseminate these evidence-based reports, reviews be written, and given proper media coverage, so that it reaches global arena.

Dr Waleed Rasool, Director IDDS, said that the introduction of legal warfare or Lawfare dimension is in itself a remarkable contribution in the resistance struggle. He highlighted that the media is significant in communicating the higher echelons of power in the world about happenings in IIOJK. He also stressed the need to document India’s atrocious crimes by gathering data from the ground in IIOJK itself and shape it so as to apprise the international community of Indian excesses in the occupied territory.

Advocate Nasir Qadri further said, according to the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists), the Kashmiri media has reached a breaking point, where journalists have begun to doubt their career choice. Many journalists who have faced the heat have either switched to work as public relations executives or have become academics. Some have gone abroad to study. The fact is that even after they quit journalism, the authorities do not spare them. “They can just pick up a line or a paragraph from a story that appeared a decade ago and summon him or her,” says another Srinagar-based reporter.

He said, it appears that the Indian authorities are running a strategy to disrupt, detain and punish those engaging in reasonable journalism and human rights advocacy – particularly against those who have the capability to document rights violations and report newsworthy incidents to the global arena. In light of this, the Indian authorities must recognise the work of journalists and human rights defenders. There needs to be an urgent review of the use of black laws, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) to align these laws with India’s obligations under international law – in particular international human rights law, he said.

Advocate Nasir Qadri pointed out that halting India’s disingenuous application of counter-terrorism is urgently required. He said, it must be questioned – even if a state is running a censorship strategy – why there is a preference for using a counterterrorism framework to disrupt, detain and punish media and human rights professionals? Such a strategy is questionable at best and triggers many legal questions over the motives of such a security law, he added.

Following is the complete report:-

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