100 Days of Lockdown: Journalists Protest Internet Ban in Kashmir

Kashmiri journalists display laptops and placards during a protest demanding restoration of Internet service, in Srinagar, yesterday. Since August political activity in Kashmir has been curtailed, journalists have been refused free access, and NGOs have reported human rights abuses, claims denied by India.

SRINAGAR — Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir yesterday marked 100 days since PM Modi’s government stripped the region of its autonomy and imposed a strict communications blackout, with local journalists protesting the Internet blackout.

Tensions have been high since August 5 when Delhi moved to bring the region under direct rule, cut telecommunications and detained thousands to quell any unrest.

Shops and businesses have remained shut to protest against the controversial decision, and children have not been going to school.

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Dozens of journalists held a silent demonstration against the Internet ban, holding their laptops open with blank screens or held placards with the words “100 days no Internet” and “stop humiliating Kashmir journalists”.

“The authorities have treated journalists too as potential troublemakers and choked journalism in the process,” a freelance journalist said.

“Internet is so fundamental to journalism in this day and age. The authorities have choked our practices instead of enabling free press here,” said another journalist, Naseer Ganai.

“This is the worst situation the journalists are facing in Kashmir. It’s very humiliating. It does not even happen in a war-like situation,” Majid Maqbool, an independent journalist, said.

“We are not asking anything out of the turn. It’s our basic right to demand Internet,” said Aakash Hassan, a journalist in Srinagar who was also part of the protest.

Post-paid mobile connections were restored in the Kashmir Valley on October 14 – 72 days after they were cut off. Pre-paid phones and all Internet services remain suspended.

On the 60th day of the restrictions early in October, more than 100 journalists launched a silent sit-in protest against the communication blockade.