Media gag and Freedom of Press in Kashmir

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By: Younis Rashid

Freedom of Press is a fundamental right and any law enabling the Government to certain the freedom would warrant strict construction. The freedom of press is so important to survival of democracy that Article 19 says everyone has right of freedom of opinion and expression.

But in Jammu & Kashmir the story is different in the current uprising .In kashmir the  agitation triggered by the killing of  Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8 .

Later on government targeted newspapers and social media. The regime during night intervening 16th and 17th of July, raided media houses ,seized thousands of newspapers and banned them for  publishing for 3 days . The undemocratic clampdown was forced to “ensure peace” . A government official on the directions from Top , simply asked the publishers not to publish the newspapers. The government on its part dismiss the decision and denied to have ordered raids on the press and ban on them (newspapers).

Also India is not enough good in freedom of press India’s ranking in press freedom prepared by reporter without Borders for 2016 obtusely low at 133 amongst 180 countries. In 2010 Arundhati Roy was threatened with sedition charge for comments on Kashmir , and also the  Kanhaya Kumar (JNU President) was lobed in Tihar jail with sedition charge. And now NDTV is new addition to the list.

The story in Jammu and Kashmir is no different . Telecasting of all local channels was banned in 2010 (when Omar Abdullah was CM of J&k). And now in 2016 kashmir agitation every opportunity to prevent true and honest reporting of the tragic events that have claimed about 100 lives 15000 injured 1000 blind by pellet gun 19 weeks of Historic Jamia Masjid siege .

Journalist injured,thrashed by security forces  during the current uprising in kashmir .Mubashir khan , Aman Farooq Faisal khan where amongst a dozen photojournalists thrashed by security forces on September 2, at Batamaloo . On September 3, pellets were fired on photojournalists like Muzamil Matoo and Zuhaib Maqbool .

These attacks has widely condemned by International Federation of journalists and committee to protect journalists -a US based Non- government Organization.
The worst form of governance came in front when State Government banned the daily English newspaper “Kashmir Reader”.

On October 2, invoking a draconian law from the days of Dogra autocratic rule – JK Newspapers Incitement to Offences Act 1971 Samvat – the state government ordered presses to stop printing and publication of a small English language daily Kashmir Reader.

The order, issued by Srinagar district magistrate, Farooq Ahmed Lone, says that publication of the newspaper can “easily incite acts of violence and disturb peace and tranquility”.

In a conflict zone like Kashmir, a mere typo is enough to get a journalist labeled as “IB”, or “RAW agent”. Amid these allegations and counter-allegations while some journalists were killed, many others were intimidated or attacked. But in the last 30 odd years of armed conflict in the Valley, not a single media publication was banned. Not even when President’s Rule was imposed in the state.

The ban on Kashmir Reader seems to be the brainchild of the state government,
The State has been allergic to local media since the day Kashmir erupted in the wake of killing of militant “commander” Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his two colleagues on July 8.

But the  offensive of banning the newspaper has proved the deadliest. Apart from denying the right to freedom of speech, it has deprived scores of people their livelihood.

The editor of Kashmir Reader, Mir Hilal, terms the order as “an attempt to muzzle the newspaper that has been reporting the uprising like any other newspaper”. “We fail to understand how a newspaper that has been reporting events with journalistic sincerity incites violence?” he asks.

In 2005, the then government led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had booked the editor-in-chief of Greater Kashmir, Fayaz Ahmed Kaloo, over a news report pertaining to mere snowfall. Had legal intervention not salvaged Greater Kashmir, this widely circulated daily would have been history.

But then, since January 2015, when the PDP-BJP alliance came to power, the state government has been attempting to introduce “stenographic journalism”, whereby journalists are expected to file stories on government dictations.

The author is pursing  Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. And he can be reached at [email protected]

(This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. Kashmir Patriot neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)