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‘Closing Down News Portals, YouTube Channels Becoming a Common Tactic’: Delhi Union of Journalists

The media body has called for an end to all arbitrary practices that "bode ill for a free media and democracy".

New Delhi: The Delhi Union of Journalists has expressed strong concern over the government’s recent attempts to suppress media voices in various parts of India, including the freezing of Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) accounts of Gaon Savera, a digital media platform that advocates for farmers’ issues.

The decision has been taken amid agitations by farmers in Haryana and Punjab against the policies of the governments and a forthcoming  national convention of workers and peasants Delhi, scheduled to be held on August 24.

Gaon Savera, led by journalist Mandeep Punia, provides news and perspectives on rural life and agriculture.

“The mainstream media has largely remained silent on the demonstrations by farmers and their demands. Now, even small independent platforms such as Gaon-Savera that take a pro farmers and pro people stand are being targeted. Along with Gaon Savera, the social media accounts of many farmer leaders have also been frozen,” read the statement.

Furthermore, it also raised concerns over the freezing of the website and social media accounts of The Kashmir Walla, a Srinagar-based news portal.

The statement added that the Kashmir website’s editor Fahad Shah had already been arrested in February 2022, and had been charged under UAPA, and languishes in jail. A former trainee reporter Sajad Gul is in a jail in Uttar Pradesh.

“Closing down news portals, YouTube channels and social media accounts is becoming a common tactic by governments, both in the states and at the centre. Prolonged internet bans, as in Manipur and Kashmir, are also becoming common. India is becoming infamous as the internet shutdown capital of the world, with the largest number of deliberate disruptions of the internet. The Delhi Union of Journalists calls for an end to all such arbitrary practices that bode ill for a free media and democracy,” said the statement.

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The full text of the press release is reproduced below.

The Delhi Union of Journalists registers its strong protest at the repeated moves to muffle media voices in several parts of the country.

This week the Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) accounts of Gaon Savera, a prominent digital media platform that voices issues of farmers, were frozen on the direction of the Government of India. The decision has been taken amid agitations by farmers in Haryana and Punjab against the policies of the governments and a national convention of workers and peasants to be held in Delhi on August 24.

Gaon Savera is a multi-media outlet run by a young journalist, Mandeep Punia, who in the past was arrested for covering the farmers’ protests in the Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur borders of Delhi. His media outlet carries news and views on village life and agriculture.

The mainstream media has largely remained silent on the demonstrations by farmers and their demands. Now, even small independent platforms such as Gaon-Savera that takes a pro farmers and pro people stand are being targeted. Along with Gaon Savera, the social media accounts of many farmer leaders have also been frozen.

Meanwhile, three days ago the website and the social media accounts of the Srinagar based news portal The Kashmir Walla were frozen. Its editor Fahad Shah had already been arrested in February 2022, had been charged under UAPA and languishes in jail. A former trainee reporter Sajad Gul is in a jail in Uttar Pradesh.

Closing down news portals, you tube channels and social media accounts is becoming a common tactic by governments, both in the states and at the centre. Prolonged internet bans, as in Manipur and Kashmir, are also becoming common. India is becoming infamous as the internet shutdown capital of the world, with the largest number of deliberate disruptions of the internet. The Delhi Union of Journalists calls for an end to all such arbitrary practices that bode ill for a free media and democracy.

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Sujata Madhok        S.K.Pande               Jigeesh A.M.

President             Vice President       General  Secretary