IFEX, global media bodies join campaign to call for restoration of 4G mobile internet in Kashmir

Srinagar: The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a global network of over a hundred non-governmental organisations striving for freedom of expression, has called for an end to the block on 4G mobile internet amid the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic and the simultaneous lockdown that have forced people the world over locked up indoors have had an even more crippling impact as high speed internet remains blocked for over eight months in the region, an IFEX statement said.
The statement endorsed by 37 national media unions from south Asia as well as global media advocacy and freedom of expression organisations is patt part of a solidarity campaign started jointly by the South Asian Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) titled ‘Postcards from Kashmir’. The campaign tells inside stories of Kashmiri journalists, who bore the brunt of the communication blackout throughout the months of lockdown.
“The lockdown has had an even more crippling impact due to lack of access to high-speed mobile internet to provide people access to critical information and medical research. The region’s 4G mobile internet is yet to be restored after it was shut down exactly eight months ago,” it said.
Authorities are yet to restore 4G internet in the region after blocking it entirely in the run up to the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year even as all communication channels were shut with the IFEX calling it the “world’s biggest information black hole”.
The clampdown on communication including internet has rendered the local media in Kashmir “virtually dysfunctional” as per the IFEX statement even as the Indian Supreme Court had declared internet as a fundamental right.
The statement said that since 2012, Kashmir had recorded 180 internet shutdowns- the highest in the world.
“The media in particular has been hard hit, unable to function without one of the most basic and fundamental tools of communication in the digital age,” it said, demanding, “media houses provide field reporters with standard personal protective equipment to keep them safe while on duty.”

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