Kashmir Times Editor moves SC for hearing on Valley curbs

New Delhi, Aug 13 : The Executive Editor of the Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin, on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking early hearing on her plea seeking relaxation of curbs on movement to media personnel and photojournalists to cover news in the Kashmir Valley.

The top court directed Bhasin’s lawyers to give details of the petition to the Registrar.

The court was hearing a plea filed by Bhasin seeking directions to ensure that an enabling environment be created for journalists and all media personnel in Jammu and Kashmir to practise their profession.

It also sought that the debilitating restrictions imposed through the complete shutdown on Internet and telecommunication services and severe curbs on the movement of photojournalists and reporters be immediately relaxed in order to ensure the freedom of the press.

The petitioner’s counsel, Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee, Ratna Appnender and Sumita Hazarika, sought directions to the Jammu and Kashmir government to relax restrictions and to allow journalists to report freely from the Valley after the clampdown in the state.

The plea was filed by Hazarika, who said that Bhasin had not been able to print and publish the Kashmir edition of the Kashmir Times due to the stifling restrictions on all communication services and movement, leading to a blockade on media activities.

The petitioner said that such restrictions were curbing the rights of journalists under Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution and the right to know the condition of residents of the Kashmir Valley.

The petitioner said the absolute Internet and telecommunication shutdown, severe curbs on mobility and sweeping curtailment on information sharing in the Kashmir valley, at a time when significant political and constitutional changes were being undertaken on the status of Jammu and Kashmir, was fuelling anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear in the state.

The government has revoked Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and has broken up the state into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. These were accompanied by, among others, curbs on the media.

The petitioner called it an information blackout and said that it was a grave violation of the right of the people as the media cannot report on the ongoing developments and neither can the opinions of the residents of Kashmir be reported about.

“From August 4, mobile phone networks, Internet services and landline phone connectivity were all discontinued and shut down, leaving Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut off from all possible modes of communication and information,” the petitioner said.

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

/IANS

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