Why we must not change the channel

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”117177″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]There are moments as you’re watching the news when it feels as if the world is becoming an increasingly horrible place, that totalitarianism is winning, and that violence is the acceptable norm. It’s all too easy to feel impotent as the horror becomes normalised and we move on from one devastating news cycle to the next.

This week alone, in the midst of the joy and heartbreak of the Olympics, we have seen the attempted forced removal of the Belarusian sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya from Tokyo by Lukashenko’s regime. Behind the headlines, the impact on her family has been obvious – her husband has fled to Ukraine and will seek asylum with Krystina in Poland and there have been reports that even her grandparents have been visited by KGB agents in Belarus.

This served as a stark reminder, if we needed one, that Lukashenko is an authoritarian dictator who will stop at nothing to retain power. And this is happening today – in Europe. Our own former member of staff Andrei Aliaksandrau and his partner Irina have been detained for 206 days; Andrei faces up to 15 years in prison for treason; his alleged “crime” – to pay the fines of the protestors.

In Afghanistan, reports of Taliban incursions are now a regular feature of every news bulletin, with former translators who supported NATO troops being murdered as soon as they are found and media freedom in Taliban-controlled areas now non-existent. Six journalists have been killed this year, targeted by extremists, and reporters are being forced into hiding to survive. As the Voice of America reported last month: “The day the Taliban entered Balkh district, 20 km west of Mazar e Sharif, the capital of Balkh province last month, local radio station Nawbahar shuttered its doors and most of its journalists went into hiding. Within days the station started broadcasting again, but the programming was different. Rather than the regular line-up, Nawbahar was playing Islamist anthems and shows produced by the Taliban.”

Last Sunday, Myanmar’s military leader, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, declared himself Prime Minister and denounced Aung San Suu Kyi as she faces charges of sedition. Since the military coup in February over 930 have been killed by the regime including 75 children and there seems to be no end in sight as the military continue to clamp down on any democratic activity and journalists and activists are forced to flee.

At the beginning of this week Steve Vines, a veteran journalist who had plied his trade in Hong Kong since 1987, fled after warnings that pro-Beijing forces were coming for him. The following day celebrated artist Kacey Wong left Hong Kong for Taiwan after his name appeared in a state-owned newspaper – which Wong viewed as a ‘wanted list’ by the CCP. Over a year since the introduction of the National Security Law in Hong Kong the ramifications are still being felt as dissent is crushed and people arrested for previously democratic acts, including Anthony Wong, a musician who was arrested this week for singing at an election rally in 2018.  Dissent must be punished even if it was three years ago.

And then there is Kashmir…  On 5 August 2019, Narendra Modi’s government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status for limited autonomy. Since that time residents inside Kashmir have lived under various levels of restrictions. Over 1,000 people are still believed to be in prison, detained since the initial lockdown began, including children. Reportedly 19 civilians have died so far this year caught in clashes between the Indian Army and militants. And on the ground journalists are struggling to report as access to communications fluctuates.

Violence and silence are the recurring themes.

Belarus, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Kashmir. These are just five places I have chosen to highlight this week. Appallingly, I could have chosen any of more than a dozen.

It would be easy to try and avoid these acts of violence. To turn off the news, to move onto the next article in the paper and push these awful events to the back of our mind. But we have a responsibility to know. To speak up. To stand with the oppressed.

Behind every story, every statistic, there is a person, a family, a friend, who is scared, who is grieving and in so many cases are inspiring us daily as they stand firm against the regimes that seek to silence them. Index stands with them and as ever we shine a spotlight on their stories – so that we can all bear witness.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][three_column_post title=”You may also want to read” category_id=”41669″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

China: A century of silencing dissent


Let them know they are not forgotten

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_hoverbox image=”115781″ primary_title=”Aasif Sultan” hover_title=”Aasif Sultan” hover_background_color=”black” el_class=”text_white”]Aasif covers human rights for the Kashmir Narrator and was jailed for two years in August for alleged involvement in “harbouring known terrorists”[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_hoverbox image=”115782″ primary_title=”Golrokh Emrahimi Iraee” hover_title=”Golrokh Emrahimi Iraee” hover_background_color=”black” el_class=”text_white”]Jailed for six years in 2016 for writing about the practice of stoning in Iran and “insulting Islamic sanctities”[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_hoverbox image=”115743″ primary_title=”Hatice Duman” hover_title=”Hatice Duman” hover_background_color=”black” el_class=”text_white”]Hatice Duman is the former editor of the banned socialist newspaper Atılım, who has been in jail in Turkey since 2002[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_hoverbox image=”115783″ primary_title=”Khaled Drareni” hover_title=”Khaled Drareni” hover_background_color=”black” el_class=”text_white”]Khaled was jailed for three years in Algeria in August for covering the Hirak protest movement[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_hoverbox image=”115780″ primary_title=”Loujain al-Hathloul” hover_title=”Loujain al-Hathloul” hover_background_color=”black” el_class=”text_white”]Loujain is a women’s rights activist known for her attempts to raise awareness of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, where she remains in jail[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_hoverbox image=”115741″ primary_title=”Yuri Dmitriev” hover_title=”Yuri Dmitriev” hover_background_color=”black” el_class=”text_white”]Yuri has been targeted for his work in identifying the graves of victims of Stalinist terror and has been jailed on baseless charges of sexual assault by the authorities[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]2020 has been a terrible year for the world.

Unfortunately, for some human rights activists, free speech supporters and journalists, 2020 is just yet another year they have spent in prison, incarcerated on trumped-up charges for speaking out against the actions of authoritarian regimes.

As 2020 comes to a close, we want them to know that no matter how long they have been in jail, they have not been forgotten.

We have chosen six people whose plights must not be forgotten as part of our new #JailedNotForgotten campaign.

Early in 2021, we will send cards containing messages of support from the Index team but we are also asking for you to stand in solidarity with them. Please use the form below to personalise your message to the chosen six:

  • Aasif Sultan, who was arrested in Kashmir after writing about the death of Buhran Wani and has been under illegal detention without charge for more than 800 days;
  • Golrokh Emrahimi Iraee, jailed for writing about the practice of stoning in Iran;
  • Hatice Duman, the former editor of the banned socialist newspaper Atılım, who has been in jail in Turkey since 2002;
  • Khaled Drareni, jailed in Algeria for ‘incitement to unarmed gathering’ simply for covering the weekly Hirak protests that are calling for political reform in the country;
  • Loujain al-Hathloul, a women’s rights activist known for her attempts to raise awareness of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia;
  • Yuri Dmitriev, a historian being silenced by Putin in Russia for creating a memorial to the victims of Stalinist terror and facing fabricated sexual assault charges.

Add your message of support using the form below.

You can also sign up to receive our weekly newsletter, which features news relating to freedom of expression issues around the world. You do not need to sign up to this to send a message. [/vc_column_text][gravityform id=”50″ title=”false” description=”true” ajax=”false”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”115746″ img_size=”full” onclick=”custom_link” link=”http://www.indexoncensorship.org/donate”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The crisis in Kashmir: an Index reading list

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Indian government’s revocation of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir has been a disaster for free speech.

In October 2019, Narendra Modi’s government rescinded article 370 of the Indian constitution which had given the region special autonomous status since 1954.  The region is now run as two separate union territories – Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Ever since its autonomy was curtailed, access to information for inhabitants has been greatly reduced.

Despite palpable risks to their safety, journalists in the disputed region have remained, but a lack of access to internet has hindered their progress.

Set in the Himalayas, the region is famously beautiful – often described as “heaven on Earth” – but this is in stark contrast to the fierce and often bloody dispute wracking Jammu and Kashmir.

As the situation worsens, we look back at pieces published in Index magazine and online exploring the impact the conflict has had on free speech, journalists and the people who call Kashmir their home.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Paradise Lost

Journalist and broadcaster Isabel Hilton visited Kashmir in the early 2000s. She documented her experiences in 2002 and spoke of her encounters with Pakistani military.

The piece is an insight into how much of major conflicts can seem underreported, but in fact are not. For journalists working in the region, the daily reports of death tolls and atrocities are both a livelihood and a duty, but only major events tend to make headline news across the world.

She wrote: “In Srinagar, the journalists — themselves constantly threatened and often attacked by both sides — have grown weary of looking for new angles on death. Only the larger outrages — such as the car bomb attack on Srinagar’s assembly building on 1 October last year which claimed more than 30 lives — are reported internationally.”



Index on Censorship autumn 2020 issue on the theme of the disappeared

Killing journalism

In the most recent edition of Index (which can be read here), Bilal Ahmad Pandow discussed the experiences of journalists in Kashmir.

Since India took control and imposed direct rule, a feeling of (relative) security in the region has been lost and censorship laws have taken a firm grip, he writes.

A new policy for journalists introduced this year by the Jammu and Kashmir government imposes rules on restricting “fake news, plagiarism and unethical or anti-national content”.

“Pressure on media freedom was ratcheted up even further with the introduction of the New Media Policy 2020. Journalists were, of course, already operating under tremendous pressure – harassment, intimidation, the choking of advertisement revenue, imprisonment, draconian laws and a communication blockade – all of which are forcing journalists to self-censor.”

Index on Censorship summer 2020 issue on the theme of privacy

One to one

Earlier this year, Kashmiri journalist Bilal Hussain spoke with Index’s Orna Herr on life in the media in the region.

He told Herr of his personal struggles to get copy and videos past online restrictions and out of the country. Journalists have been creative in their attempts to get past the internet blocks designed to limit media freedom, he said.

“Since March 2020, the government allowed restricted internet access that blocked many news websites. So journalists installed VPNs that could break the firewall and enabled journalists to access those websites.”

“Some journalists used to travel to Delhi to access the internet and came back after filing their reports.”

“To get video interviews to my editor in Paris, I put them on a memory stick and gave it to a friend who was travelling to the USA, and he sent it on from there.”

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Diaspora Voice

Poet Agha Shadid Ali was born in Kashmir in 1949. He moved to the USA in 1976 but his home was always at the forefront of his literary works.

His 1997 work Country Without a Post Office discussed the plight of Kashmir. At the time of their publication, he said: “My entire emotional and imaginative life began to revolve around the suffering of Kashmir.”

Ali died of brain cancer in 2001. Index included two of his poems following the 2002 Kaluchak massacre in which militants attacked a tourist bus, killing 31 people and injuring 47.


Media moguls & megalomania, the September 1994 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

Media moguls & megalomania, the September 1994 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

Spotlight on India

This piece from 1994 by Caroline Moorehead shows how the human rights spotlight was finally being turned onto Jammu and Kashmir.

She writes: “In their war against the militants…the Indian police and security fores have come to treat disappearances with a combination of lethargy, obfuscation and threats, connived at by the judiciary. Court orders are ignored, relatives warned to stop making enquiries, and the case is shifted from place to place while documents are mislaid and those responsible posted to other places.”

It tells the story of the disappearance of 22-year-old Harjit Singh, a far from unusual story in the region.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Beyond the Gun

Beyond the Gun is a collection of photographs and statements from Kashmiri people in 2002. Its emotive language and testimony from residents who felt betrayed by India’s handling of the region, coupled with photographs of members of the community, make for a stirring read.

By Sheba Chhachhi, each photograph and collected testimony tells a different story. Some, like the words from carpet worker Jana, show the danger of bringing to light the problems caused by local authorities and provides a chilling account of escaping molestation by a border security force soldier.

Jana said: “I faced the power of his gun with the power of my mind. I felt no fear. I had the axe. Had the axe not been there; there was a rolling pin, a ladle. If I had a gun, they would have seized it long ago. These are my own implements. No one can take them away from me.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Partition, the November 1997 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

Partition, the November 1997 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

The price of freedom

In 1997, Pakistan and India celebrated 50 years of independence, but continuing tensions between the two muted the festivities.

In this article from that year, Eqbal Ahmad set out the problems caused by a misguided approach to decolonisation by the United Kingdom, which led to the partition of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Though not specifically about the troubles in Kashmir, much of the hostility between Pakistan and India is thoughtfully explained and ensures a greater understanding of the conflict.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Long live the patriotic syndrome

In this 2002 article, Sidharth Bhatia claims India once had the world’s largest and freest media, something which has now changed. It takes a historical journey explaining chronologically just how India’s media freedom has been squeezed.

Bhathia ponders the problems populist jingoism can have on freedoms, citing the border war in 1999 as a prime example.

“More worrying is the decline in any challenge to the received wisdom on contentious issues such as human rights abuses, especially in Kashmir. This was seen at its most blatant during the border war at Kargil in 1999 between Indian and Pakistani soldiers (disguised as irregulars) who had infiltrated the area.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][three_column_post title=”You may also like to read” category_id=”581″][/vc_column][/vc_row]