SRINAGAR: Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir raided the homes of four journalists on Wednesday, triggering concerns of a further crackdown on press freedom in the disputed region.
After the raids in Srinagar, the region’s main city, the four journalists were summoned to local police stations where they were questioned. Police did not specify the reason for the raids.
Police seized documents and electronic devices, including cellphones and laptops, belonging to the journalists and their spouses.
Three of the journalists have written for foreign media while one is an editor of a monthly news magazine.
Journalists in Kashmir have long worked under tremendous stress and have been targeted in the past, some fatally, by both the Indian government and militant groups.
Journalists have said harassment and threats by police increased after India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status and divided the region into two federally governed territories amid an unprecedented lockdown in 2019.
Many journalists have been arrested, beaten, harassed and sometimes investigated under anti-terror laws.
The Kashmir Press Club, an elected body of journalists in the region, has repeatedly urged the Indian government to allow them to report freely, saying security agencies were using physical attacks, threats and summons to intimidate journalists and muzzle the press.
India’s decision to strip the region of its special status in August 2019 brought journalism to a near halt in Kashmir for months. India introduced a controversial media policy in June last year that gives the government more power to censure independent reporting.
Fearing reprisals from government agencies, most of the local press wilted under the pressure. Journalists have also come under scrutiny through anonymous online threats the government says are linked to rebels fighting against Indian rule.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and has been claimed by both since they won independence from the British empire and began fighting over their rival claims.
Since 1989, a full-blown armed rebellion has raged in Indian-controlled Kashmir seeking a united Kashmir — either under Pakistani rule or independent of both countries.
The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.