'Kashmir Times' Editor Seeks SC Hearing on Media Restrictions in J&K

'We will see,' an SC bench told her.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court asked the Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin on Tuesday to hand over the memo to its registrar for urgent listing of her plea which seeks the removal of restrictions on the media in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of the provisions of Article 370.

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra told advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Bhasin, “you hand over the memo to the registrar and he will look into it”.

Grover told the bench that Bhasin is an editor of a leading daily in Kashmir and there has been a complete lockdown in the Valley due to which journalists are unable to work.

“We will see,” the bench said.

Bhasin in her plea has sought directions for the restoration of all modes of communication, including mobile Internet and landline services, throughout the state in order to provide an enabling environment for the media to practise its profession.

In the petition, the editor has said she is seeking a direction for the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to immediately relax all restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir and some districts of Jammu.

Since August 4, all connectivity was shut down leaving Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut-off from all possible modes of communication and information, she said.

“No formal orders, under which such action was taken, were communicated by the Centre and state administrators, and power and authority under which such excessive and arbitrary action was ordered is still unknown to the petitioner,” the plea said.

“The communication blockade and strict restrictions on movement of journalists resulted in a virtual blackout and media reporting and publishing was grievously impacted,” it said.

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IWPC statement

The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) also released a statement expressing concern over the prolonged shutdown of communication in the Kashmir Valley and expressed solidarity with the press “doing their job in the teeth of obstacles in their path”.

The statement emphasised the role of the media in the functioning of a democracy and pointed out that the shutdown was “not allowing the media to carry out their jobs to report freely and fairly on the situation”.

“The IWPC believes that the media cannot do its job properly if it doesn’t have access to basic communication links. One week after the government’s decision to abrogate Art 370 which gave special status to J&K, internet mostly remains suspended. In a digital age, that is as good as shutting down the media,” said the statement released by the IWPC.

On August 5, orders under section 144 of the CrPC were issued and all of Kashmir was placed under a de facto curfew and severe restrictions imposed on movement, it added.

Press identity cards of reporters were not given any consideration and they were effectively disabled from reporting on the situation by restricting their movement, the petition said, adding that due to severe and pervasive restrictions imposed by authorities her newspaper Kashmir Times, Srinagar edition could not be distributed and circulated on August 5.

The editor submitted that since August 6, the newspaper’s Kashmir edition has not been printed and published as complete and absolute restrictions on communication services and movement has resulted in the imposition of a de facto blockade on media activities, including reporting and publishing on the situation in the valley.

“In view of the absolute and debilitating curtailment of the right to report of the press and media and the violation of petitioner’s right to practice her profession, the petitioner is constrained to approach this court under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking immediate and appropriate relief for safeguarding the rights available under Article 14, 19 (1) (a), and 19 (1) (g) and 21 of the constitution filed thorough advocate Vrinda Grover,” the petition said.

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The journalist has sought a direction for the Centre and the state administration to take all necessary steps for ensuring free and safe movement of reporters, journalists and other media personnel.

She has also sought framing of guidelines to ensure that the right and means of media personnel to report and publish news is not unreasonably curtailed through the issuance of orders by the authorities or any other authority suspending telecom or internet services.

The journalist has also sought a direction for setting aside or quashing any and all orders under which all modes of communication have been shut down.

(With inputs from PTI)