SRINAGAR: Following a Government of India order, social networking site Twitter on Tuesday blocked more than a dozen accounts and deleted about a hundred tweets related to Kashmir.
Two of the deleted tweets were of Kashmir Reader correspondent Wasim Khalid. In an official message, Twitter had first asked him if he wished to voluntarily remove the tweets, before they were automatically deleted. One of the deleted tweets was from June 17, featuring a photo of a Kashmiri youth who was made to sit on the street, hands tied behind with a rope, in front of two gun-toting government troopers. The other tweet had shared a story about a civilian who said he did not believe there was oppression in Kashmir until he was himself beaten by government forces.
Another Kashmiri journalist was told by Twitter to remove a photo of a youth who was caught by government forces during a stone-fighting incident. The journalist, who contributes to international media outlets, was also asked to remove another photo of a militant’s funeral, in which the body was covered in a black flag with the kalima written on it.
“We are writing to inform you that Twitter has received official correspondence regarding your Twitter account. The correspondence claims that your account violates Indian law. Please note we may be obliged to take action regarding the content identified in the complaint in the future. Please let us know by replying to this email as soon as possible if you decide voluntarily to remove the content identified on your account,” read the Twitter message sent to the identified accounts.
In their responses, the journalists said they believed they had not violated any law, because they had only posted factual posts, not concocted or fictitious ones.
“I don’t think the content that I’ve posted violates the Indian law. I believe that posting pictures on social sites including Twitter is a normal routine for photojournalist to display his work to the entire world. We don’t manipulate things. We take pictures of what is happening around us,” the journalist wrote in his response.
Wasim made the same argument. “It was a public picture that was circulated everywhere and I, too, posted it. The other one was a sarcastic memoir. I don’t know how have I violated the Indian law?” he said.
According to the order from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, uploaded on a section of the ministry’s website called “lumendatabase”, Twitter has been directed to block handles/tweets in the interest of public order as well as for preventing any cognisable offence referred in Section 69A of the IT Act.
On its part, Twitter said, “In our continuing effort to make our services available to users everywhere, if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time. We have found that transparency is vital to freedom of expression. Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify affected users.”
Such instances of censorship have occurred in the past as well. Facebook had blocked the official page of a local Kashmir weekly and deleted a post that featured its cover, showing slain militant Burhan Wani, for not “following community standards”. Facebook also removed several posts that were supposedly depicting resistance to Indian rule in Kashmir. In February last year, Facebook pulled down a cartoon by Kashmiri cartoonist Mir Suhail depicting roots growing out of Afzal Guru’s grave in Tihar jail and joining a large tree named Kashmir. Suhail was also barred from posting anything new on his page. Facebook said that it removes “any comments posted by anyone that praise or support terrorist groups or their actions”.