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'Information Blackhole Continues Till Date': Anuradha Bhasin Files Additional Affidavit In Plea Against Media Curbs [Read Affidavit]

4 Sep 2019 12:25 PM GMT
Information Blackhole Continues Till Date: Anuradha Bhasin Files Additional Affidavit In Plea Against Media Curbs [Read Affidavit]
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Kashmir Times Editor, Anuradha Bhasin, who had moved the Supreme Court against curbs on freedom of media and press in Jammu and Kashmir, has filed an additional affidavit in the matter stating that the 'information blackhole' around rural areas and other districts of Kashmir continues till date.

She has categorically deposed that despite statements from govt. officials regarding lifting of restrictions from vehicles' movement, movement of journalists in Srinagar continues to be restricted by security forces. This has led news printing agencies to reduce their publication from the usual 12-16 pages to 2-4 pages.

With regards the restrictions imposed on movement of journalists, she has submitted that:

  1. Despite issuance of movement passes to journalists, their movement is restricted by security forces who often do not allow journalists to enter certain parts of Srinagar, especially the Downtown area, which is considered as a sensitive locality. Further, they do not answers as to under which Order or law are they restricting journalists' entry.
  2. Local journalists who travel on their personal motorbikes are routinely harassed at security check-points and their vehicles are seized by security forces. They are also told that their press cards will not suffice for release of the motorbike and only when a J&K Police officer accompanies the journalist to the security check-point and identifies him in front of security forces, will the vehicle be released.
  3. The aforementioned seizure of vehicles is further made severe by absolute absence of public transport in the region due to the prevailing restrictions.
  4. The technical staffers, who work at the printing press have not been issued movement passes and thus it is impossible to print Srinagar edition of the Kashmir Times, given that staffers cannot commute to the printing press.

She has also pointed out that there is a serious violation of Article 19 of the Constitution by the security forces in as much as they are trying to censor media content by requiring the journalists to show their recorded footage of the situation and in several instances the photographs and videos shot by them are forcefully deleted.

With regards the blockade of communication she has submitted that:

  1. Debilitating communication blockade continues in the valley as mobile and internet services remain shutdown and the landlines remain dysfunctional across some parts of Kashmir.
  2. This blockade has rendered the reporters powerless to maintain two way communications and has also hampered transfer of material and information from the Jammu bureau office to the Srinagar bureau office of Kashmir Times.

She has also criticized 'Media Center' established by the State authorities in Hotel RK Sarovar Portico. It has been submitted that:

  1. The media center has only four computer systems and alarmingly, government officials scrutinize the email communication of journalists. This is blatant violation of freedom of press.
  2. There is a single mobile phone in the media centre for the use of all the press and media personnel, that too without internet facility. Further, every journalist is expected to furnish information about the person being called on the phone and the information of the news item being communicated.

She also submitted that neither the doctors nor the administrators are willing to disclose any information about the stocks of medicines and services of doctors available on a daily basis since the night of lock down. This was a result of targeting of journalists and people speaking to the Press, by security forces.

The additional affidavit has been furnished based on the information gathered by the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Times who had visited the valley recently and also reports of many news agencies.

Conclusively, she has asserted that constant monitoring of news reports being sent to bureau offices through the media center, disregard for press cards and movement passes, debilitating restrictions on movement of journalists, and the deletion of photos and videos shot by journalists which represent the situation in Kashmir, is a severe breach of the rights and freedoms of the press and media as guaranteed under Articles 19, 21 and 14 of the Constitution of India.

The bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S. A. Bobde and Abdul Nazeer had deferred hearing of the matter by an order of adjournment dated August 16, stating that the Court would like to give Government a little time to review the situation. 

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