Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is about one-third part of the scenic Himalayan region of Kashmir that is militarily and politically administered by Pakistan, while the remainder is in the control of India. Both countries claim ownership of the entire Kashmir territory, a dispute birthed in the independence of Pakistan and India in 1947 when British colonialism over India ended.
While the partition of British ruled Indian dominion was functionally settled between the leaders of the newly independent Pakistan and India, the future of Kashmir was botched up when the Hindu ruler of Muslim-majority Kashmir opted to become part of India. The ensuing military conflict between the two countries ended up in a partitioned Kashmir territory under their respective military controls. The dispute ended up at the UN where it remains the oldest unresolved bilateral territorial quarrel.
The Pakistani constitution does not treat AJK as legally jurisdictional under its formal political control and does not allow it representation in the national parliament, but formally allows self-governance for AJK. The special political status of AJK premised on Islamabad’s national security doctrine aiming to make the whole of Kashmir its part with the help of UN means that the media landscape in AJK is heavily controlled.
While there are several local print publications, they are actively discouraged from showcasing any political views that run contrary to the Pakistani state’s political position on Kashmir. AJK also has a large footprint of Pakistani state-owned broadcast media that peddles Islamabad-approved political narratives and controlled socio-economic discourses, while native media ownership of the broadcast sector is not allowed. Despite recent advances in digitalization and access and expansion of the Internet landscape, there is still absent any sizable free independent media online that has native ownership in AJK.