New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement saying it is “deeply concerned” at the “continued shutdown in communication links with the Kashmir Valley”, which it said is curtailing the “media’s freedom and ability to report fairly and accurately on current developments”.
The guild expressed its “appreciation for and solidarity to all journalists” reporting from the ground despite the “unprecedented challenges”. Kashmir has been under a shutdown for almost a week, with the Centre on Monday announcing the decision to revoke Article 370 and reorganising Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. There has not been any communication from the government about when the lockdown may be lifted.
“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 statement says. The statement says that 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,” it says.
While reports said restrictions had been eased on Friday to allow prayers, there were also reports of protests erupting in the Valley. There have also been reports of pellet guns and tear gas shells being fired at the protestors. Phone and internet services are still disconnected, but some people have managed to access them.
The situation prevailing in Jammu & Kashmir requires “free media, unhindered by such restrictions”, as it is “critically important in helping dissemination of news and in its democratic duty of keeping a watch on institutions of government and security”, the guild said.
The unfair distinction in the treatment, for access, curfew passes, communication between local journalists and those coming in to report from outside is “imprudent”, the guild said. “All journalists and all Indian citizens are entitled to equal freedoms,” it says.
Asking the government to take “immediate steps to restore normalcy for the media’s communication links”, the statement says “media transparency has and always should be India’s strength, not fear”.
Kashmir newspaper editor files petition
Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court on Saturday, seeking directions to ensure that an “enabling environment” is created for journalists and other media personnel in all parts of the state.
According to Scroll, the petition says the “debilitating restrictions imposed through the complete shutdown on internet and telecommunication services, and severe curbs on the movement of photo journalists and reporters be immediately relaxed in order to ensure the freedom of the press and media.”
“The petitioner has not been able to print and publish the Kashmir edition of Kashmir Times as the complete and absolute restrictions on all communication services and movement has resulted in the imposition of blockade on media activities, including reporting and publishing on the situation in Kashmir,” the petition says.
The restrictions have curbed the right of journalists under Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution, Bhasin said. The journalist also added that the shutdown has “fueled anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents of the Kashmir”.
The information blackout, Scroll reported, was a “direct and grave violation of the right of the people to know about the decisions that directly impact their lives and their future”.