Data Services on Low Speed 2G Restored Across J&K, Some News Sites Now 'Whitelisted'

Search engines and over 50 news websites, including The Wire, are on the government-approved list of sites which people will be allowed to access, but hundreds of others will remain blocked.

New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration on Friday said that it would reinstate mobile data services for the whole union territory starting on January 25 (Saturday), in what marks restoration of a limited form of online connectivity for the region since the abrogation of Article 370 but the ban on social media of all kinds will remain.

Broadband access through fixed line will be allowed as per previous orders, which includes institutions that provide essential services (hospitals) and travel establishments (hotels etc).

A number of key restrictions still stay in the place though. According to a home department order, network connectivity will still be restricted to the slow 2G speed and access will only be allowed to websites that are named on  the government-approved “whitelist” that was made public on January 18 and has now been expanded to allow access to search engines and news.

“Access shall be limited to whitelisted sites and not to any social media applications allowing peer to peer communication and Virtual Private Network Application,” the order notes. 

It also also states that 2G data services will be allowed on both  post-paid and pre-paid mobile SIM cards, provided that holders of the latter are those “whose credentials have been verified as per the norms applicable for the post-paid connections.”

In addition to this, over 150 new websites have been added to the white-list, including over 50 news websites, all of which were not present on the first edition of this list. The news organisations that have been white-listed include most mainstream Indian newspapers as well as foreign publications like CNN, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

The Wire is also present on the white-list and can now be read in J&K, though not its Hindi and Urdu editions which have a significant readership in the UT. Important news platforms not whitelisted include the Indian Express, Newslaundry, FirstPost, Frontline and hundreds of other newspapers, portals and TV channels in J&K and outside. Since YouTube remains banned, all video news channels also remain blocked.

Expanded Kashmir Firewall Order by The Wire on Scribd

Mobile internet and broadband services have been suspended in the Valley since the Centre revoked J&K’s special status.Post paid mobile phones became operational after 70 days of the initial clampdown on all communication that began on August 5.

SMS services were started for Kashmir on January 1, 2020 and on January 15, the J&K government announced restoration of broadband for essential services.

On January 10, calling for a review of the continued internet shutdown in the Valley, the Supreme Court had stated that “freedom of speech and expression through the Internet is an integral part of Article 19(1)(a) and any restriction on it must be in compliance with Article 19(2) of the Constitution.”

Almost a week later, on January 18, the J&K administration made public details of the first white-list and announced resumption of 2G services in all ten districts of the Jammu division and two districts in the Valley.