A journalist from Kashmir, Fahad Shah, who was arrested under India's sedition and anti-terror laws, has been released on bail after spending nearly two years in prison. Shah, the founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, an independent news outlet in Indian-administered Kashmir, was accused of publishing "anti-national content" and arrested in February 2022. His case has drawn attention to the declining press freedoms in the region, as the Indian government has tightened its control on Kashmir since stripping its special status in 2019. The region, claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been a source of conflict for many years. The Indian government justified revoking Kashmir's autonomy as a means to ensure equal laws for all citizens, promote economic development, and combat separatism and terrorism allegedly supported by Pakistan. However, critics argue that journalists and activists critical of the government face harassment and possible arrest. The Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court ordered Shah's release and dismissed some charges. The court's judgment stated that considering Shah's actions as an attempt to incite violence and secession would contradict criminal law and impede freedom of speech. Shah's arrest had sparked outrage among media rights organizations. Despite the Modi administration's repeated accusations of intimidating the press and censoring independent news organizations, India is the world's largest democracy and has one of the largest media markets. However, India's ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has fallen, placing it below countries like Laos, the Philippines, and neighboring Pakistan. Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir, where reporters often face harassment and prolonged detention.
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