Journalism in PoK: A saga of intimidation, oppression and censorship

Journalism in PoK A saga of intimidation, oppression and censorship

GILGIT (POK): Journalists and political activists from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan have blamed Islamabad for subjugating their voice and harassment by using draconian anti-terrorism laws.

A number of them recently gathered at Gilgit Press Club to deliberate and discuss the deteriorating standards of press due to government policies.
Wajahat Ali, a journalist based in Gilgit said, “The previous Chief Minister didn’t allow (postponed) the law for the right to information, access to information. We want that to be restored now”.

“And if that doesn’t happen then we will use different methods from writing to exposing them. If they want to go to the courts then let them go. If we have to do real journalism, if the government wants to see us as the fourth pillar, then it should allow 19A, so that we have access to information and we can educate the common people”, he said.

For years, the journalists in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan have been demanding their rights. However, to their dismay, they have not been accorded any freedom. In fact, the government has ensured the information is denied and their voices are muzzled.

Even the fundamental right of freedom of speech has been suppressed through intimidation or force. The local newspapers are forced to carry news praising the works of the federal or local government… else they face censorship. Those who dare to raise their voice against the government are slapped with charges as grave as sedition. A number of them have been sent behind the bars for the same.

And not just individuals but the entire media house is locked if it tries to publish the reality. In 2017, Pakistan ordered the shutdown of Mujadala, largest circulated Urdu daily of Rawlakot in PoK as it carried a survey report that 73 per cent of the people living in PoK want independence from Pakistan.

Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, an exiled political activist from PoK said, “The journalism sector of Pakistan occupied Kashmir is very much subjugated. Most of the news doesn’t reach the local populace due to which many of them think that there is no problem at all and people are free here; while at other places (where the press is free) people know that they are not getting their rights”.

He added, “Journalism is a tough job here. Every newspaper owner lives under threat here because he is told that if they publish any news about the people who are against two-nation theory then his declaration (licence) will be cancelled”.

Over the years, a number of journalists have been charged under Schedule IV of Anti-terrorism act. Others have been pressurized to write biased reports shrouding unabated violations of human rights in the illegally occupied territories. Only those who have fallen in line with the government’s versions are safe in the region, while others are living constantly under an even expanding shadow of fear. (ANI) 

Also Read: Will Gilgit-Baltistan become a new regional flashpoint?

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