BASIT ZARGAR & THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 3 OCTOBER, 2019
‘We Are Journalists NOT Mouthpieces’: Kashmiri Press Protests Valley Siege
Protest against media restrictions
SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: Kashmiri journalists staged a sit-in protest in Srinagar on Thursday against the communication blockade and restrictions placed on the media in the valley. The Indian government’s clampdown on Kashmir is now in its 60th day, with mobile and internet communications still blocked across the valley.
Many newspapers in Kashmir are not being published, and a few are printing restricted editions carrying only government announcements. Last month, Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin filed a plea in the Supreme Court alleging that media persons were not being permitted to travel in the state, with the government’s restrictions hampering media freedom and functioning.
Some of the journalists at the protest had tied gags across their mouths, and were carrying signs that read ‘Journalism Is Not A Crime’, ‘We Are Journalists NOT Mouthpieces’, and ‘End the Communication Blockade’.
A Kashmir Press Club spokesperson told the Telegraph last week that the organisation had sent several reminders to the government for restoring Internet and mobile phone connections to newspaper offices, journalists and the club. “But an inordinate delay in restoring the communications confirms the misgivings that the government does not intend to provide an enabling atmosphere for the media to operate in the Valley,” the spokesman said.
“Journalists are handicapped and unable to get confirmation about the ground situation because of the communications blockade. The restrictions are totally unwarranted and unreasonable, aimed at gagging the Kashmir press,” the spokesman said.
There have been allegations of journalists being roughed up and harassed by security forces. Reports have emerged of journalists detained or arrested - including Irfan Malik, a reporter for the Greater Kashmir and Haziq Qadri, a correspondent for the news website Brut India. A report of these arrests is available here.
In August the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a hard hitting statement on media freedom in Kashmir. “Severing all communications links is already an astounding violation of press freedom. Detaining journalists as Kashmir approaches nearly two weeks of this blackout is one more form of intimidation and obstruction of the media,” said CPJ Senior Asia Research Associate Aliya Iftikhar, in New York. “India should respect its constitution and democracy, and uphold the essential value of press freedom in Kashmir and elsewhere.”
The Citizen’s photographer in Jammu and Kashmir BASIT ZARGAR covered the October 3 protest in Srinagar, where journalists demanded free access to internet and communication. Basit sent this dispatch of photographs to The Citizen using the government set up media centre, where long queues and lack of privacy are proving to be challenging.
The Citizen has not been able to establish contact with our Jammu and Kashmir chief of bureau Jehangir Ali.