Police in Indian-administered Kashmir has raided the homes of four journalists, triggering concerns of a further crackdown on press freedom in the disputed region that was stripped of its limited autonomy two years ago.

Following the raids, the four journalists were summoned to local police stations in Srinagar, the region’s main city, where they are being questioned since Wednesday morning. The police did not specify the reason for the raids.KEEP READINGIndian police videos of Kashmir leader’s funeral stir fresh anger India probes late Kashmir separatist’s family under terror law India extends Kashmir lockdown after separatist icon’s death

Three of the journalists have written for foreign media while one is an editor of a monthly news magazine.

Crackdown on journalists

Journalists have said harassment and threats by police increased after India revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status and divided the region into two federally governed territories amid an unprecedented lockdown in 2019.

Many journalists have been arrested, beaten, harassed, and sometimes even investigated under anti-terror laws.

“Harassment, raids, and questioning of journalists have become a norm in Kashmir. The government has made journalism almost impossible in Kashmir,” a journalist, who works for an Indian newspaper, told Al Jazeera.

Another young journalist from Srinagar said that frequent “raids and questioning have spread a wave of fear among them”.

“Journalism is totally being criminalized. Journalists are not scared just for themselves but the families, as well, because they, too, are being harassed now. So, we have everything at a stake,” the 29-year-old journalist, who writes for international publications from Kashmir, told Al Jazeera

The Kashmir Press Club, an elected body of journalists in the region, has repeatedly urged the Indian government to allow them to report freely, saying security agencies were using physical attacks, threats, and summons to intimidate journalists and muzzle the press.

Journalists and media watchdogs say practicing journalism in Kashmir is increasingly becoming difficult. India enacted a controversial media policy in June last year that gave the government more power to censor independent reporting.

Fearing reprisals from government agencies, most of the local press wilted under pressure.

Consequently, journalists have also come under scrutiny through anonymous online threats the government has said are linked to rebels fighting against Indian rule.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim it in full since the two won independence from the British empire and began fighting over their rival claims.

Since 1989, a full-blown armed rebellion has raged in Indian-administered Kashmir seeking a united Kashmir – either under Pakistani rule or independent of both countries.

The region is one of the most heavily militarized in the world. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels, and government forces have been killed in the raging conflict.

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