KIIR webinar exposes use of UAPA to suppress press freedom and dissent in the IIOJK

ISLAMABAD, (UrduPoint/Pakistan Point News – July 5, 2022): Speakers at a webinar organized by the Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR) and the World Muslim Congress (WMC) strongly denounced the Modi government for using UAPA and other draconian laws to suppress press freedom and dissent in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The webinar entitled “UAPA: A dangling sword on journalists and human rights defenders in the IoK” was organized on the sidelines of the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council, says a Press release.

The webinar was addressed by human rights activists, academicians and legal experts from different professors, Dr. Amina Mehmood from International Islamic University, LFK Advocate Director Nasir Qadri and Acting Dean Owais Bin Wasi of Social Sciences Rafiha University Advovate Rehana Ali UK others. While the event was moderated by KIIR Chairman, Altaf Hussain Wani.

In his initial remarks, the KIIR leader, while referring to the Modi government’s systematic repression of civil society, journalists, human rights defenders and political activists in Indian-occupied Kashmir said the occupation authorities were using so-called anti-terrorism laws as a weapon to silence dissenting voices in Kashmir.

He said that in addition to the PSA, AFSPA and other draconian laws, the decades-old Anti-Terrorism Act – UAPA was being used by India as a weapon of war to allow complete silence to the Cashmere. He said that slapping, whether it was a journalist, a rights activist or even an ordinary citizen, everyone was slapped with UAPA.

The UAPA, he said, has been amended several times to make it more effective. Referring to the most recent amendment of the law, Wani said that in addition to empowering the government to declare any individual as a terrorist, the notorious law allows the CEO of the NIA to seize assets under the section 25 and the powers of officers of the rank of inspector and above. to investigate cases falling under Article 43 of the UAPA.

Citing international covenants, Wani said: “The recent amendment is contrary to the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and also violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1967, which recognizes the mentioned principle as a human right. universal”.

The speakers said Indian occupation authorities also invoked Article 13 of the UAPA against people accessing social media during the longest internet ban ever imposed by the government when it removed the article 370 of the constitution to divide the state into two centrally administered UTs.

In the aftermath of August 5, 2019, panelists said that the (UAPA) Act has been misused in Kashmir to suppress voices that have been critical of the Indian government’s heavy-handed policy towards Kashmir.

They sadly noted that dozens of human rights activists, including Khurram Pervaiz, Ahsan Untoo and others, who have worked extensively to document human rights abuses committed by the Indian military in the region, have been arrested under of the same law and thrown behind bars.

Regarding the decision of the NIA court regarding the filing of charges against the Hurriyat leaders under the notorious UAPA, they said the decision was extremely absurd and pernicious characterized by judicial bias and integrity. They said that Kashmiri prisoners who were incarcerated under the UAPA did not have the right to a fair trial and access to a lawyer.

While expressing deep concern over the continued detention of Kashmiri leaders, panelists said India’s nefarious designs to prolong the detention of high-ranking Hurriyat leaders were a deliberate attempt to render the ongoing movement leaderless. .

Regarding the pattern of arbitrary restrictions imposed on Kashmiri journalists, they said preventing Kashmiri photojournalist Sanna Irshad Mattoo from traveling to Paris to receive her award despite holding a valid visa is an eye-opener. how the Indian government raped journalists. right to mobility.

“On the other hand, the excessive and misuse of draconian laws by the Indian authorities in the occupied Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir has created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity,” they said, adding that anyone dares to speak out against Indian brutality is silenced by being imprisoned under UAPA and other black laws.

UAPA continues to hang like a sword of Damocles over the heads of Kashmiris, especially journalists and human rights defenders who have played a key role in exposing India’s systematic genocide in Kashmir.

During the years of unrest in the region, they said dozens of journalists were killed by Indian forces while a number of journalists, including editors and newspaper owners, faced arrests and arbitrary detentions under black laws such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

“The arrests of seasoned journalists and the raids on newspaper offices speak volumes about how the J&K occupation authorities were given carte blanche to intimidate and coerce the press to toe a particular line,” they added. .

Institutional censorship in the form of the Media Policy 2020, they said, has massively prevented the media from giving objective coverage of the Kashmir issue and the human rights abuses occurring in the region.

They said unwarranted restrictions imposed on the media such as surveillance, formal and informal investigations, harassment, restrictions on movement and mobility of journalists have significantly hampered objective journalism besides undermining the role of free media in Kashmir .

The panelists called on global human rights organizations to effectively take cognizance of the issue and play their part in ensuring the right of Kashmiris to freedom of expression, their right to freedom of opinion and the press freedom in Kashmir.

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