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Pakistanis angry over Twitter's Kashmir 'censorship'

Catholic officials, activists concerned about freedom of expression after critics of India have accounts suspended

ucanews.com reporter, Islamabad

ucanews.com reporter, Islamabad

Updated: August 20, 2019 08:52 AM GMT
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Pakistanis angry over Twitter's Kashmir 'censorship'

Pakistani Christians shout anti-Indian slogans during a protest in Islamabad on Aug. 19 over India's decision on Aug. 5 to strip the region of its autonomy and impose a lockdown. (Photo by Aamir Qureshi/AFP)

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Church officials, Pakistani activists and journalists have accused microblogging website Twitter of censorship and bias for shutting down accounts tweeting about India’s decision to strip Kashmir of its autonomy.

The Indian move on Aug. 5 sparked a war of words among netizens of Pakistan and India on social media platforms.

Both Pakistan and India claim the disputed Himalayan region in its entirety and have fought at least three wars since winning independence from British rule in 1947.

In recent days, there has been a spike in suspension of Pakistani accounts mentioning Kashmir or responding to the situation in the valley. Among them are some very prominent journalists, Pakistani officials and pro-government and pro-military accounts.  

Imran Khan, the host of current affairs show Clash on satellite TV GNN, had his account suspended for tweeting about Indian-administered Kashmir.

“Twitter suspended my account. My crime? Responding to Indians on Kashmir issue. Pakistan has no representatives on Twitter. However, Twitter has one of its headquarters in India. Indians are getting Pakistanis suspended at will,” Khan wrote from his new Twitter handle.

Kamran Yousuf, a journalist who writes for Pakistani English daily newspaper Express Tribune, was forced to delete his tweet on the Indian defense minister’s statement about the country’s nuclear policy.

“It is totally incomprehensible that Twitter has suspended my account only because I commented on the Indian defense minister's statement on ‘no first use.’ It's a shame I had to delete a harmless tweet to be back on Twitter,” Yousuf said.

Australian journalist and Middle East Eye columnist C.J. Werleman has been very vocal about the suspension of accounts highlighting rights abuses in Kashmir and Palestine.

“Twitter, and particularly its CEO @jack [Jack Dorsey], has demonstrated its sympathy towards India, Israel and white nationalists over Kashmir, Palestinians and anti-racists,” Werleman tweeted.

According to Pakistani officials, around 200 Pakistani accounts have been suspended by Twitter and most of these have been recent and come in the wake of complaints by India.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority lodged an official complaint with Twitter’s regional office on Aug. 19, but Twitter has denied claims that it is biased against Pakistan.

Pakistani English daily Dawn quoted a Twitter representative as saying that it was enforcing policies judiciously and ensured the impartiality of all users regardless of their political beliefs and country of origin.

Catholic Church officials have condemned the curbs on freedom of expression.

Father Morris Jalal, executive director of Catholic TV, condemned all attacks on civil liberties, freedom of expression and media independence amid increasing tension between the nuclear-armed neighboring nations.

“This is a big violation by Twitter; people will ultimately find other platforms to voice their concern against the unilateral and illegal move by the Indian government. Social media is the lifeline of any society; people cannot be silenced whether in good or bad times,” he told ucanews.com.

Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, described Twitter’s actions as a cover to hide gross violations of human rights in Kashmir.

“Such censorship is not acceptable in today’s era. We demand resumption of nonpartisan media coverage both on social and electronic media. Kashmiris have a right to self-determination,” she said.

However, Father Nasir William, director of the Commission for Social Communications in Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese, said Kashmir cannot be won through Twitter feuds.

“The U.N. Security Council debated the Kashmir issue on August 16 for the first time in 50 years. A more responsible response should be to support such efforts,” he said.

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