On Aug 5, 2019, the abrogation of Art 370 and Art 35A of the Indian Constitution struck a body blow to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, dismembering the state into two union territories and dissolving the meagre protection the people of the state had over their land.

In the midst of the most massive military presence, the complete shutdown of all communication networks – landlines, broadband, mobile phones, roadblocks and suspension of transport services, the people of Kashmir were completely cut off, unable to reach out to neighbours, friends or family. It was a brutal siege, the likes of which was not experienced even in the 70-odd years of conflict.

In September 2019, a team from Free Speech Collective (FSC) and Network of Women in Media India (NWMI) visited Kashmir to assess the impact of the communication ban. Our report  NEWS BEHIND THE BARBED WIRE : Kashmir’s Information Blockade  detailed the grim and chilling reality, a far cry from the chorus of ‘normalcy’ touted by the Government of India.

A year on, despite pleas for full internet connectivity by students dependent on online classes and doctors struggling for information  to tackle the global Covid-19 pandemic, little has changed.

Journalists from Kashmir have continued to report bravely, despite multiple attempts to intimidate them with FIRs and interrogations. They include photojournalist Masrat Zahra, The Hindu correspondent Peerzada Ashiq, senior journalist Gowher Geelani, editor of Kashmirwalla Fahad Shah. Journalist Qazi Shibli, who had already spent several months in jail, is currently detained for interrogation but no reasons have been ascribed.

In May 2020, the administration of the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir came out with a draconian media policy on the release of government advertisements to publications whereby the antecedents of editors and journalist staff are verified and publications  summarily penalised for carrying alleged fake news or ‘anti-national’ news.

A  year since the start of the longest communications clamp down, Free Speech Collective reached out to journalists from Kashmir to mark the day with their voices about a year in the abyss.

Hear their voices HERE


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