– Press freedom in Kashmir under seize, observes Dal Khalsa

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 24 April 2020. Dal Khalsa has observed that press freedom is under seize in Kashmir as three journalists namely Masrat Zehra, Peerzada, Gowhar Geelani have been booked under draconian law UAPA in the last 48 hours.

As the world fights coronavirus, the priorities of the state remain to target and fix Kashmiri journalists, who dares to call a spade a spade, said party president Harpal Singh Cheema. Expressing solidarity with them, he said invoking UAPA against journalists was outrageous.

The motive of the state seems to strike terror into journalists and also to frighten others to toe Government’s line and thinking, said he.

He said ever since the abrogation of article 370, there’s undeclared censorship on the entire media. Now, the state has started targeting individuals, said party leader.

Intimidation of journalists has exposed lies of the Indian state that “everything in Kashmir is “normal.”

Kashmiri journalists have been the target of the Indian state in the past as well and been persecuted in jail. Asif Sultan, a journalist in Kashmiri magazine Kashmir Narrator, has been in jail for many years.

Earlier Junaid Dar was detained under UAPA. Also, Kashmir Observer journalist Mushtaq Ahmed and The Print reporter Azaan Javaid were beaten-up.

By and large the civil society and civil rights defenders are maintaining silence. He asked the government to “drop all charges against three of them and to stop abusing the lock-down.

The leader of the Sikh body hailed the statement of Amnesty in which the international body has asked the government of India to not muzzle the press and drop all charges against journalists Masrat Zehra, Peerzada, Gowhar Geelani and release those, who remain incarcerated solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and refrain from abusing its power in this time of crisis.”

He said mere statement of condemnation by Editors Guild of India wasn’t enough and urged the body to pro-actively fight for the rights and justice of Kashmiri journalists.

Press freedom in Kashmir under seize, observes Dal Khalsa

The Hindu – Shared values between India-USA are discrimination, bigotry, hostility towards refugees: Amnesty International

Amnesty International hit out at the Indian government over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, saying it legitimises discrimination based on religious grounds

New Delhi- India, 24 February 2020. The shared values between India and the USA are “discrimination, bigotry, and hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers”, Amnesty International USA said in a joint statement with Amnesty International India ahead of USA President Donald Trump’s visit to India on Monday.

Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as senior officials of his administration, landed in Ahmedabad on the first leg of his two-day visit to India.

“Anti-Muslim sentiment permeates the policies of both the USA and Indian leaders. For decades, the USA-India relationship was anchored by claims of shared values of human rights and human dignity. Now, those shared values are discrimination, bigotry, and hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers, Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA’s executive director, was quoted as saying in the statement.

It was a reference to the anti-CAA protests in India, the internet lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir and the Muslim ban expansion by President Trump affecting Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan and Tanzania, the statement said.

It added that Amnesty International USA’s researchers travelled to Lebanon and Jordan to conduct nearly 50 interviews with refugees that as a result of the previous version of the ban have been stranded in countries where they face restrictive policies, increasingly hostile environments, and lack the same rights as permanent residents or citizens.

The statement also came down hard on the Indian government, hitting out at the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019 and saying it legitimises discrimination based on religious grounds.

It criticised statements such as identify them (the protestors) by their clothes or shoot the traitors by Prime Minister Modi and his party workers. Such remarks “peddled the narrative of fear and division that has fuelled further violence”, it said.

The internet and political lockdown in Kashmir has lasted for months and the enactment of CAA and the crackdown on protests has shown a leadership that is lacking empathy and a willingness to engage.

We call on President Trump and Prime Minister Modi to work with the international community and address our concerns in their bilateral conversations, Avinash Kumar, executive director, Amnesty International India said in the statement.

Tolo News – Afghan civilians pay the price of the conflict: Amnesty International

The human rights organization released its annual report on events in the Asia-Pacific region.

Amnesty International, 30 January 2020. Amnesty International’s annual human rights review released on Thursday said that the Afghan civilians continued to pay the price of the ongoing conflict as “justice proved elusive for the victims.”

Citing UN reports, the review stated that civilian casualties remained high throughout 2019, with “July being the deadliest month on record and Afghanistan remaining the deadliest conflict in the world for children.”

The review has found that “hundreds of thousands of Afghans were internally displaced, half a million Afghans were forcibly returned from neighbouring countries, and several thousand more came back from Europe, especially Turkey.”

The report also said that journalists and human rights defenders continue to face intimidation, threats, detention and even death for their work.

“The armed conflict in Afghanistan is not winding down, it is widening, and the people who continue to pay the price are Afghan civilians.

Throughout 2019, they were killed, injured, forcibly displaced and subject to other serious human rights violations by both the government and armed groups,” said Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“In 2020, the world must shake off its indifference to this long-running conflict, and provide the people of Afghanistan with the protection they need and the justice they are owed,” the report said.

The world’s deadliest conflict for children

According to the report, in the first nine months of 2019 more “than 2,400 children were killed or injured in Afghanistan, making it the deadliest conflict in the world for children.”

Also, over the same period, “2,563 people were killed in total and 5,676 injured. The period between July and September was the deadliest on record, with July being the single deadliest month.”

“Most of the attacks were carried out by armed groups, including the Taliban and Daesh. In August, a suicide attack claimed by Daesh killed at least 63 people and wounded more than 200,” the report said.

“In the first six months of the year, pro-government and international forces were responsible for the highest number of civilian deaths,” according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

“In December, a US-operated drone strike killed five people, including a mother who had just given birth,” the report claimed.

“There continues to be a shocking disregard for human life from all sides. There are armed groups who have carried out war crimes, and pro-government forces who are responsible for the deaths of the very people they are supposed to be protecting,” said Omar Waraich.

“The Afghan authorities and the international community have a responsibility to ensure that civilians are protected and that the perpetrators of attacks on them are held accountable,” the report said.

Human rights defenders under threat

The report listed cases of human rights defenders in Afghanistan facing threats, intimidation, detention and death:

“In September, the Taliban abducted and killed Abdul Samad Amir of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. No one has been held accountable for his murder, which amounted to a war crime,” the report said.

The Amnesty report also mentioned the Logar scandal, a story that the UK’s Guardian broke internationally:

“In December, Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security, the country’s top intelligence agency, arbitrarily detained Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, two human rights defenders who had exposed an alleged paedophile ring operating in Logar province.”

“Faced with threats from both the state and non-state actors, Afghanistan’s human rights defenders are operating in some of the most hazardous conditions anywhere in the world.

The Afghan government and the international community have long paid tribute to their bravery, but they must now recognize their achievements, offer them effective support, and ensure that they are respected and protected,” said Omar Waraich.

Forced returns

According to the report:

“In 2019, the world continued to turn its back on Afghans who had sought sanctuary from the continuing conflict. Neighbouring countries Iran and Pakistan forcibly returned half a million people last year, with more than 476,000 of them being sent back from Iran.”

In Europe:

“European countries continued to forcibly return Afghan asylum-seekers in the hundreds under various agreements made with the Afghan government, despite the grave risks that they would face upon their return to the country.”

In Turkey:

“Turkey forcibly returned at least 19,000 Afghans as of September 2019 after keeping them in poor detention conditions.”

The regional deputy director at Amnesty concludes:

“The conflict in Afghanistan makes it clear that no part of the country is safe for people to be returned to, and yet states continue to do so, in brazen violation of international law, forcing people into harm’s way to face the very dangers they were forced to flee in the first place,” said Omar Waraich.

Dawn – Smog blamed on Indian farmers begins to hit Lahore

Intikhab Hanif

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 31 October 2019. Moderate smog has started developing in Lahore because of the lowering minimum temperature, humidity and calm wind at night that is allowing the contributing pollutants, being generated mostly by Indian Punjab farmers by burning massive crop residue, to penetrate the bordering areas.

“We have already taken adequate steps to prevent local contributions to smog, and are ready to combat those from Indian Punjab,” said Environment Protection Secretary Salman Ejaz on Wednesday.

He contradicted reports suggesting development of hazardous level smog in Lahore. “This is false as our authentic data shows much lower levels that are not dangerous at all as yet,” he said.

Chief Meteorologist in Lahore Sahibzad Khan said there was no smog. It was merely smoke and haze, he said, indicating chances of rain and strong westerly winds on Saturday and Sunday.

This would provide relief, though temporary, against smog or whatever, he said.

Human rights group Amnesty International earlier said that the Air Quality Index in Lahore had reached 484 at 10am, adding that the threshold for hazardous level of air quality was 300.

It blamed the Punjab government for exposing people to hazardous air risks in violation of their human rights to life and health. Smog was witnessed in the bordering areas of Lahore and those in the south along the canal on Wednesday morning.

Haziness, and nose and eye irritation was a clear indication of the beginning of the phenomenon which is pestering Lahore and other Punjab cities in October and November for the past few years.

The main cause is stated to be the burning of crop residue mainly by Indian Punjab farmers. Smog that develops as a result causes worst health threatening conditions in the Indian side up to Delhi.

The Environment Protection Department (EPD) observatory at the Met department’s Jail Road observatory on Wednesday recorded 128 AQI (Air Quality Index) at 12.50pm.

The AQI at Wagah was 280. According to the EPD smog policy, AQI ranging between 101 and 200 indicates slight, 200 to 300 moderate and 400 to 500 hazardous air pollution.

Mr Salman Ejaz said Punjab did not witness smog during most parts of the current month because of extended monsoons and some strong westerly weather systems that pushed back the pollutants from the fields of Indian Punjab.

“NASA Satellite pictures are showing huge crop residue burning in the east Punjab cities Amritsar and Jalandhar. The local contribution is 20 per cent. And we are not having full impact of the smog causing pollutants from the Indian side because of the (favourable) wind direction,” he said.

Pollution caused by Panjab and Haryana farmers reaches from New Delhi to Lahore !
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