Broadband Disruptions in Kashmir Impact Newspaper Operations, Editors Say

Though no official reason for the disruptions has been forthcoming, calls by separatists’ outfits for ‘celebrating’ Pakistan Day on Sunday seem to be the reason.

File photo of curfew in Shrinagar last month. Credit: PTI

File photo of curfew in Srinagar last month. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: With some separatist organisations calling for Pakistan Day celebrations on Sunday in Jammu and Kashmir, the authorities in the state once again clamped down on the flow of information by cutting broadband services on Saturday.

While mobile internet services in the state have remained suspended since early July – when protests erupted across the Valley in the wake of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces –  leased line and broadband services for newspapers contined operating. However, while leased line services were disrupted on August 12, broadband Internet services went on the blink on the afternoon of August 13.

Shujaat Bukhari, editor of Rising Kashmir told The Wire that it was around 2 pm on Saturday that broadband services stopped functioning. “This has greatly affected the operations of newspapers and news agencies. We are trying to do all our work manually now by taking out printouts.”

Bukhari said that while mobile internet services have remained suspended since last month, newspapers were able to operate because they subscribed to leased line and BSNL broadband services. “The private leased line services stopped functioning yesterday. However, as the broadband service was operational, we were able to publish Saturday morning. But Saturday afternoon, even that stopped working. The strange part is that the government is once again not owning up to having cut these services. Today we hope to manage with whatever we had downloaded till afternoon, but things are becoming difficult,” said Bukhari.

Some government officials, however, reportedly said that broadband services were restored after half an hour of disruption.

This is the second time in the past month that newspapers in Kashmir have faced government curbs in their functioning. On the night of July 15/16, the premises of three leading newspapers of the Valley – Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir – were raided by the police, their staff was detained and their copies seized. This was suspected to be because the state government wanted to restrict the flow of information regarding stone pelting incidents and protests in the Valley, which claimed over 50 lives and left over 5,000 civilians and over 3,000 security personnel injured over the past month.

Following the government clampdown on newspapers in July, when a three-day ban was imposed on the publication of newspapers in the Valley, journalists protested that the government had not shown the gumption to own up to its actions. Subsequently, even after the curbs were lifted and the government assured them protection, newspapers had remained closed for a day in protest against chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s claim before Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu that there was no ban on the publication of newspapers.