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Indian police raid homes of four journalists in Kashmir

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An Indian paramilitary trooper checks a bag of a Kashmiri man in Srinagar, September 5, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir have raided the homes of four journalists, raising concerns about a further crackdown on press freedom in the disputed Himalayan valley.

The phones and laptops of the journalists were seized during the raids in Srinagar on Wednesday. The reason behind the action was not immediately clear.

Following the raids, the journalists were summoned and questioned at the Kothibagh police station in the region’s main city.

Three of the journalists have written for foreign media while one is an editor of a monthly news magazine.

Journalists in the Muslim-majority region have reportedly faced more threats and harassment since India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status amid an unprecedented lockdown in 2019.

Many journalists have been arrested, beaten, harassed and sometimes even investigated under anti-terror laws, which effectively allow people to be held indefinitely without trial.

Critics say a controversial vaguely-worded act known as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) has been used by the police to intimidate Kashmiri residents, journalists, activists and dissidents.

India also enacted a controversial media policy in June last year that gave the government more power to censor independent reporting.

The Kashmir Press Club, an elected body of journalists in the region, has repeatedly urged the Indian government to allow them to report freely, saying security agencies were using threats and summons to intimidate journalists.

Tensions in the Himalayan territory heightened after pro-Independence Syed Ali Geelani died at the age of 92 last week.

Geelani, a popular figure in the region, who demanded a referendum on whether Kashmir should remain under the control of New Delhi, had been in prison or under house arrest for much of the past decades.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.

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