Independent news outlet The Kashmir Walla’s website, social media blocked by government

Aug 31, 2023
By The Kashmir Walla

Statement by The Kashmir Walla staff

The Kashmir Walla is an independent news site based in Srinagar that has been covering developments in Jammu and Kashmir without fear or favour for more than 12 years.

For the past 18 months, however, we’ve lived a horrifying nightmare – with the arrest and imprisonment of our founder-editor, Fahad Shah, and the harassment of our reporters and staff, amid an already inhospitable climate for journalism in the region.

On Saturday, August 19, 2023, we woke up to another deadly blow of finding access to our website and social media accounts blocked.

When we contacted our server provider on Saturday morning to ask why was inaccessible, they informed us that our website has been blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the IT Act, 2000. 

Next, we discovered that our Facebook page – with nearly half a million followers – had been removed. As had our Twitter account, “in response to a legal demand.” In tandem with this move, we have also now been served an eviction notice by the landlord of our office in Srinagar and we are in process of evicting the office.

Fahad Shah, our founder-editor, was arrested in February 2022 over the coverage of a gunfight. It was the beginning of the saga of his revolving door arrests. He went on to be arrested five times within four months. Three FIRs under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and one Public Safety Act have been registered against him.

In April 2022, the State Investigation Agency (SIA) raided our office and Shah’s home in Srinagar for an investigation into an opinion piece published 11 years ago, in 2011. During the raid, most of our gadgets were seized, reporters were interrogated, and all documents were scrutinized. Since then, our interim editor has been summoned and questioned by the SIA multiple times. Shah remains imprisoned in this case in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail – 300 kms away from home.

Sajad Gul, who worked briefly with us as a trainee reporter, remains in a prison in Uttar Pradesh under the Public Safety Act. He was initially arrested in January 2022.

We are not aware of the specifics of why our website has been blocked in India; why our Facebook page has been removed; and why our Twitter account has been withheld. We have not been served any notice nor is there any official order regarding these actions that is in the public domain so far.

This opaque censorship is gut-wrenching. There isn’t a lot left for us to say anymore. Since 2011, The Kashmir Walla has strived to remain an independent, credible, and courageous voice of the region in the face of unimaginable pressure from the authorities while we watched our being ripped apart, bit by bit. 

The Kashmir Walla’s story is the tale of the rise and fall of press freedom in the region. Over the past 18 months, we have lost everything but you – our readers. The Kashmir Walla is beyond thankful that we were read avidly for 12 years by millions. 

As to what the future holds, we are still processing the ongoing events.