by Meena Menon
This petition(started by me) now has over 95,000 signatures. I felt that few people were speaking up against the curbs on the press in Jammu and Kashmir and when Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal , executive editor of Kashmir Times filed a petition in the Supreme Court, it made sense to support her demand of lifting restrictions.
While many sent nasty comments on the petition and have not surprisingly, not supported the demand for press freedom, thanks to the warped mentality that all journalists are “presstitutes” and don’t deserve any rights, quite a few, over 95,000 have demanded the lifting of the curbs. Today is the 34rth day of the lockdown and Ms Jamwal’s petition in the apex court will be heard on September 16.
This is the text of the petition and the link- https://www.change.org/p/journalists-lift-the-curbs-on-the-press-in-jammu-and-kashmir
From August 4, 2019 onwards, there is an unprecedented clampdown on mobile phone networks, internet services, and landline phone connectivity and this has left Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut off in terms of communication and information. There was a virtual blackout on news and people couldn’t communicate with their families.
Journalists too were restricted and constrained from carrying out their duties as a result of which few stories came out of Jammu and Kashmir. In response to the continued blackout, which has impacted the publishing of newspapers, Ms. Anuradha Bhasin, the Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India today seeking directions to ensure that the State creates an enabling environment for journalists and all other media personnel in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir to practise their profession, and that 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.
It is undemocratic and repressive not to allow public and the press to express themselves by a lockdown. Ms Bhasin, according to her case filed in the apex court, 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.
Such restrictions, curbed the rights of journalists under the provisions of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of India and the right to know about the conditions of residents of Kashmir Valley. The restrictions on information sharing at a time when there are tumultuous political and constitutional changes on the status of Jammu and Kashmir is fuelling anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents of the Kashmir.
The Editors Guild of India too has issued a statement expressing deep concern over the continued shutdown in communication links with the Kashmir Valley and the consequent curtailment of the media’s freedom and ability to report fairly and accurately on current developments.
In a situation such as that prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir at present, the role of free media, unhindered by such restrictions, becomes critically important in helping dissemination of news and in its democratic duty of keeping a watch on institutions of government and security, the Guild has said, while urging the government to take immediate steps to restore normalcy for the media’s communication links. Media transparency has and always should be India’s strength, not fear.
Please sign this petition and support Ms Bhasin and all other journalists in Jammu and Kashmir and exhort the government to lift the restrictions and allow journalists to do their duty. Your support for Ms Bhasin and other journalists in Jammu and Kashmir who are fighting the information blackout is also an endorsement of their right to publish newspapers, share information and conduct their duties as journalists in an unfettered manner. Please support the demand to lift the internet blackout and other curbs in Jammu and Kashmir immediately.