The Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin, has on Saturday, August 10, 2019, challenged in Supreme Court the curbs on press freedom imposed by the Central Government in the wake of abrogation of Section 370 and reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir, stating that the situation has not only affected her right to practice her profession, but also fuelled anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents of the Kashmir.
The complete lock down imposed on internet and telecommunication has resulted in de facto blockade on media activities, including reporting and publishing on the situation in Kashmir and the opinion of the residents thereof.
Bhasin in her petition Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India lamenting on the state of affairs in Kashmir, has said that the news reporters “were effectively disabled from reporting on the situation in the region by restricting their movement.”
The petition filed through Advocate Sumita Hazarika states, “The reporters of the Petitioners newspaper are prevented and hindered from canning out their profession and work, which necessarily involves that the reporters are allowed to freely move across Kashmir and interact with officials and the public to discharge their responsibility as journalists. The Petitioner has been unable to communicate or contact her reporters and staff stationed in the Srinagar Office, due to the communication shutdown and this has gravely disrupted and harmed the Petitioner’s work.”
The petition has quoted a 1985 Supreme Court judgment in Indian Express Newspapers v Union of India, where the Court laid down the role of media, in these words: “Newspaper being surveyors of news and views having a bearing on public administration very often carry material which would not be palatable to governments and other authorities.”
Alleging that the Government’s decisions have affected the citizenry’s ‘right to know’ latest updates on Kashmir issue, the petition also states, “access to Parliamentary debates, which are a matter of public record and are telecast live on television, cannot be denied to the people of the Kashmir valley by shutting down internet and cable television services.”
Bhasin has demanded the Government be asked to relax press restrictions and disclose government order or notification based on which the information lockdown is operating.
–India Legal Bureau