Challenging the curbs on media freedom imposed in the Kashmir valley in the wake of the abrogation of the state's special status and the Act passed by the Parliament to bifurcate it, a writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Saturday by Anuradha Bhasin, the Executive Editor of Kashmir Times.
The petition seeks directions to ensure that media persons and journalists Jammu and Kashmir are able to freely practise their profession, and challenges the restrictions imposed through the complete shutdown on internet and telecommunication services, and severe curbs on the movement of photo journalists and reporters.
The Petitioner is represented by her lawyers Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee and Ratna Appnender, and it was filed through Sumita Hazarika, Advocate on Record.
Kashmir Times, published simultaneously from Jammu and Srinagar, is stated to be the largest circulated English daily in the state with daily circulation of 3.5 lakh copies.
The petitioner 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. The petitioner said that such restrictions were curbing the rights of journalists under the provisions of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of India and the right to know the conditions of residents of Kashmir Valley.
The petitioner said that the absolute and complete internet and telecommunication shutdown, severe restrictions on mobility and sweeping curtailment on information sharing in the Kashmir valley, at a time when significant political and constitutional changes are being undertaken in Delhi to the status of J&K, is fuelling anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents of the Kashmir.
This petition has been filed as information blackout is a direct and grave violation of the right of the people to know about the decisions that directly impact their lives and their future. Also, the media cannot report on the aforesaid developments, and neither can the opinions of the residents of Kashmir be reported about.
From August 4, 2019 onwards, mobile phone networks, internet services, and landline phone connectivity were all discontinued and shutdown, leaving Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut off from all possible modes of communication and information. The communication blockade and strict restrictions on movement of journalists resulted in a virtual blackout, and media reporting and publishing is grievously impacted.
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