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Information Blackout Is Direct And Grave Violation Of Rights: Kashmir Times Executive Editor Files Petition In Supreme Court Against Communication Clampdown In Jammu And Kashmir

"The communication blockade and strict restrictions on movement of journalists resulted in a virtual blackout, and media reporting and publishing grievously impacted."

Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times — the largest circulated English daily in Jammu and Kashmir — has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking directions to ensure that the Union of India “immediately relax all restrictions on mobile, internet and landline services and the strict restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir and some districts of Jammu in order to enable journalists to practise their profession and exercise their right to report.”

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Bhasin’s petition comes in light of the communications clampdown in the now-Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir that has been in place since August 4, 2019. Since then, mobile phone networks, internet services, and landline phone connectivity have been discontinued and shut down. Following the Centre’s bid to amend Article 370 on August 5, the news media has faced enormous difficulties in reporting from the ground.

The Petitioner said that such restrictions were curbing rights of journalists under provisions of Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India, as well as the Right To Know of the residents of the Kashmir valley.

The petition further read, “No formal orders under which such action was taken was communicated by the Respondents (Union of India) and the power and authority under which such excessive and arbitrary action was ordered is still unknown to the Petitioner. The communication blockade and strict restrictions on movement of journalists resulted in a virtual blackout, and media reporting and publishing grievously impacted.”

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The petition also brings to notice of the apex court that Press Identity cards of news reporters were “not given any attention”, and that reporters were “effectively disabled from reporting on the situation in the region by restricting their movement”.

“The information blackout set in motion 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. The internet and telecommunication shutdown also means that the media cannot report on the aforesaid developments, and neither can the opinions of the residents of Kashmir be reported about,” said Bhasin.

Bhasin is represented by lawyers Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee, Prasanna S and Ratna Appnender, and the petition was filed through Sumika Hazarika, Advocate on Record.

(Source: The Leaflet)

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