Communication lockdown in J&K "draconian", says Editors Guild; journalist moves SC seeking lifting of restrictions on press in state

Even as Kashmir is limping back to normalcy, journalists and editor's bodies on Saturday condemned the communication blackout imposed in the period following the scrapping of Article 370.

Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times, on Saturday filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking that an enabling environment be created for journalists and media persons in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, said a press release. The petition also sought the immediate removal of the "debilitating restrictions imposed through the complete shutdown on internet and telecommunication services and severe curbs on the movement of photo journalists and reporters."

 Communication lockdown in J&K draconian, says Editors Guild; journalist moves SC seeking lifting of restrictions on press in state

Representational image. Reuters

The petition claimed that a complete clamp down on information sharing was fuelling panic and fear among the residents of the Valley. It further stated that the information blackout "infringed on both the rights of journalists guaranteed under  Articles 14 and 19  the people's right to know, especially regarding decisions which directly impact their lives and futures".

The blackout also prevented the opinions of the residents of Kashmir from being reported, it added.

Claiming that the petitioner had been unable to print the Kashmir edition of the publication, it asked the state government to relax restrictions imposed on the press and allow journalists to report freely.

In a similar vein, the Editors' Guild of India released a statement condemning the communications shutdown in Kashmir and the curtailment of press freedom to report on the issue.

Terming the clampdown as draconian, the statement said that it adversely affected the vibrant local media in Kashmir.

"While some visiting journalists may be able to file their reports once they are out of the Valley, the lockdown is almost total and draconian for the vibrant local media that are the first eyes and ears on the ground. The government knows very well that it is impossible to process and publish news now without the internet. It owes it to the people of India, including all in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, to allow the press, a vital institution of democracy, to function freely," the statement read.

The statement highlighted the role of the press in dissemination of information and in keeping a check on government and security institutions. It further stated the local journalists and those from outside the Valley should be treated equally.

"The guild underlines the imprudence in creating an unfair distinction in the treatment: for access, curfew passes, communication between local journalists and those coming in to report from outside. All journalists and all Indian citizens are entitled to equal freedoms," it said.

The statement expressed solidarity with "all journalists reporting from the ground despite unprecedented challenges" and urged the government to restore normalcy in media communications and ensure the safety of reporters.

A communication blackout had imposed in Jammu and Kashmir on 4 August, a day before the Union government moved a resolution scrapping Article 370 and tabled a bill proposing the bifurcation of the state into two Union territories.

- With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 11, 2019 00:33:55 IST