- The BBC and Reuters reported that thousands of people in the disputed Kashmir region protested the Indian government on Friday and that the police used tear gas to disperse them.
- The Indian government accused the two news organisations of lying about the demonstration in Kashmir, saying that protests in Kashmir never exceeded 20 people.
- Reuters’ written report was based on the testimony of unidentified witnesses and one police officer, while the BBC recorded footage of the protest.
- India has imposed a phone and internet blackout in the region for the past seven days. Many residents have no access to news or medical care.
- The protest came after India revoked the part of its constitution that established the quasi-independence of Kashmir.
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The Indian government has accused the BBC and Reuters of fabricating news reports of a massive protest in Kashmir amid its weeklong internet and phone blackout – even though the demonstration was recorded on camera.
Both outlets reported on Friday that thousands of people protested in Srinagar, a major city in the disputed region, and that Indian police used tear gas on the crowd.
The people had gathered in Srinagar’s Soura area after Friday prayers to protest India’s Monday cancellation of two articles in its constitution that guaranteed the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to make its own laws and prevent outsiders from buying property in the region.
Friday’s demonstration was the largest since India announced its constitutional changes on Monday, the BBC and Reuters both said. The government in New Delhi had not consulted Kashmiris on the decision beforehand.
Reuters’ report, published on Friday, was based on the testimony of a police officer and two witnesses, all of whom were unnamed. It did not feature any footage of the protest.
The next day, a spokeswoman for the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, Vasudha Gupta, tweeted that the report was “completely fabricated & incorrect” and that protests in Kashmir last week did not exceed 20 people.
“There have been a few stray protests in Srinagar/Baramulla and none involved a crowd of more than 20 ppl,” she added.
A news report originally published in Reuters and appeared in Dawn claims there was a protest involving 10000 people in Srinagar.
This is completely fabricated & incorrect. There have been a few stray protests in Srinagar/Baramulla and none involved a crowd of more than 20 ppl.
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) August 10, 2019
The BBC’s report of the same protest, published Saturday, featured video footage and reported in text that reporters “witnessed the police opening fire and using tear gas to disperse the crowd.”
In the video, the BBC said that “the Indian government denied the protest happened.”
It also said in a Sunday statement: “The BBC stands by its journalism and we strongly refute any claims that we have misrepresented events in Kashmir. We are covering the situation impartially and accurately.”
It’s not clear whether the BBC published the video after the Indian government denied the report. The BBC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for clarification.
Watch the BBC’s report here:
India has imposed a phone and internet blackout in the region of Jammu and Kashmir for the past week – a common tactic to prevent large protests and the spread of information unfavorable to authorities.
India has also sent thousands more troops into the area and placed strict roadblocks and curfews on people in the region.
Most journalists on the ground are unable to report, and many residents are so shut off that they don’t know about the constitutional changes behind the blackout, a local reporter, Fahad Shah, wrote for Time last week.
Sick people are also struggling to call ambulances because their phone lines don’t work, and ambulances are having trouble travelling to hospitals because of the roadblocks and curfews, Shah reported, as did The New York Times.
A select few, however, have been able to bypass the internet ban: India’s state-owned BSNL telecom provider sold satellite phones to journalists on the ground for 100,000 rupees (about $US1,400) so they could continue working.
The internet and phone blackout in Kashmir came after India revoked the part of its constitution that established the quasi-independence of the region. The move means the region is now under the direct control of the federal government.
Pakistan, which is majority-Muslim and claims the state for itself, suspended all trade with India in retaliation.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a series of tweets on Sunday that India’s actions in Kashmir amounted to “ethnic cleansing” and compared the ideology of the Indian government to “the Nazi Aryan Supremacy.”
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