Skip to main content

Kashmir 'clampdown' on journalists: It's easier to move around without a press card

Counterview Desk
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization with headquarters in New York, has taken strong exception to curb on media freedom following the recent crackdown in Kashmir, saying, "Obstruction, confiscated equipment, and hand-carrying stories and photos on flash drive" is all that the journalists in the state are facing.
An organization with 40 experts around the world, and seeks to bring in focus "violations in repressive countries, conflict zones, and established democracies", CJP's blog by Kunal Majumder and Aliya Iftikhar, who are with its Asia programme, gives specific instances of how widespread restrictions on journalists' movement, following a telecommunications blackout, is hampering their activity.

CJP blog:

“You are from the press, you are not allowed,” a local Kashmiri news editor says Indian security forces told him on August 7 at one of the dozens of checkpoints set up across the region.
Journalists aren’t able to report, it’s hard to move around, and many have been restricted from shooting videos or taking photographs, the journalist told CPJ via a messaging app. He is the only journalist that CPJ has been able to reach on the ground in Kashmir since the near total communications blackout in the region began on August 4. We are withholding his name for security reasons. “I fear that they will arrest journalists, especially those who will report what is happening,” he said.
What is happening is that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken measures to toss constitutional provisions that underpinned Kashmir’s agreement to join India 72 years ago, removing the legal framework supporting its limited autonomous rule.
The decision in the world’s largest democracy was made without asking the people of Kashmir -- or even telling them. Authorities have set up military-manned checkpoints and concertina wire throughout the city of Srinagar. They’ve arrested key local political figures, according to news reports, but since they have also cut off any and all forms of communication, including landline phones, people in the region have no easy way, or any way at all, to find out.
India has had plenty of practice blocking communications, having frequently unplugged the internet in Kashmir and elsewhere, according to the Software Freedom Law Centre. But the move is only likely to exacerbate fear and frustration among Kashmiri people, who have long fought for self-determination. As reports of protests, injuries, and casualties trickle out, increasing the environment of uncertainty, accurate and verified information from Kashmir is crucial.
Over the past few days, we have attempted to reach any and all contacts we have in the region to get a better understanding via phone calls, emails, and messaging services, with little luck. One wire service reporter based in New Delhi told CPJ that photojournalists in Kashmir were having difficulty sending photos, so they have loaded them on flash drives and given them to people flying out of the region. He spoke on condition of anonymity given company policy.
"The Telegraph’s" Srinagar reporter, Muzaffar Raina, reported that he typed out his reports on his computer, took screenshots, and sent them on a flash drive to New Delhi, from where they were transmitted to the newspaper’s office in Kolkata.
At CPJ we have had to largely rely on accounts of journalists who have left the region, aside from the one editor we were able to reach on the ground. Here is what the journalists told us.
The local news editor cited above, messaging with CPJ:
"I along with a few other journalists were thrashed by police on August 6 in downtown Srinagar near Khanyar after one of the photographers had clicked a photo of the barricade. They also took a photo of one of our ID cards, snatched cameras and phones, deleted photos and then also clicked photo of the vehicle plate."
And the same editor messaging with CPJ on August 6:
"Hundreds of arrests are being made here and the communication is jammed. I guess the state would be keen on looking at what information goes out. I am writing several stories using prohibited network and I guess that could become an issue in a day or two. So please do take care of things if anything happens."
Freelance reporter Adnan Bhat, on a call over messaging app on August 8 from New Delhi, after leaving Kashmir:
"Very few newspapers have published, but mostly being circulated late at night. Last night I saw copies of Greater Kashmir and Daily Alsafa. Greater Kashmir, which usually comes out with 30-odd pages, is only printing five to six pages. Journalists had gone to the District Magistrate's office for curfew pass but they were asked to come back later. Even government officials are confused as it is not officially a curfew. In fact, it is easier to move around without a press card. If you tell the security personnel that you are a journalist, they try to stop you."
I along with a few other journalists were thrashed by police on August 6 in downtown Srinagar after one of the photographers had clicked a photo of the barricade
Ahmer Khan, a freelance reporter, told CPJ on August 8 on a call over messaging app, after leaving Kashmir:
"When I tried to move around in Srinagar, I was stopped at barricades and abused by the security forces. I decided not to argue and took another route. Local journalists are not reporting because they are being constantly harassed."

The following are excerpts from published reports by journalists:

Deputy editor Muzamil Jaleel and reporters Bashaarat Masood and Adil Akhzer, Indian Express:
"For the past two days, the Indian Express reporters have been holed up in their office from where they walk around to meet residents and then return. In the office building itself, dozens of policemen have moved in, the corridors their temporary shelter … The press isn’t welcome. Most of the TV crew that have flown in are parked in a 1-sq-km area of Zero Bridge [a historical bridge connecting the Rajbagh and Sonwar neighborhoods] in the city. There is some easing of security here, on the road to the airport and the Rajbagh-Jawaharnagar stretch [neighborhoods in southern part of city] — this is the one that visiting TV cameras film. Elsewhere, roads are barricaded with spools of concertina wire and regular checkpoints with police and armed paramilitary personnel on patrol.”
Muzaffar Raina, The Telegraph:
"The 'curfew' in large areas means reporters have little freedom to move. The crushing information blockade, with mobile and landline phones shut down and Internet suspended, means they have no way to send their stories. The authorities have not issued curfew passes to journalists because officially there is no curfew."
In the Jammu region, where section 144, which restricts public meetings, is also imposed, journalists told CPJ there are restrictions on the media, though not as severe as in Kashmir valley.
Anuradha Basin, editor of Kashmir Times, told CPJ via messaging app and email from Jammu:
"Within the Jammu region mobile data, and mobile communication was suspended and movement of journalists was restricted except for in the cities of Jammu, Samba, and Kathua... Newspaper distributors have been stopped in some areas, particularly north of Jammu city."
Raqib Hameed Naik, reporter for the U.S.-based 'The Globe Post' said in a call over messaging app:
"While journalists in some cities of Jammu are not facing major restriction, the same can't be said of Kishtwar and Doda districts in Chenab Valley. Some journalists here are being stopped and not allowed to perform professional duties by the security forces … Journalists in north and south Kashmir are facing the maximum brunt. They usually email their stories as they live in faraway places. In absence of internet, you can’t expect them to travel to Srinagar every day to file their stories. This is directly impacting the newspapers which are completely now dependent on Delhi-based agencies like IANS and PTI for news stories."
CPJ’s WhatsApp, text messages, and email seeking comment from police in Srinagar, the Home Ministry and the Information and Broadcast Ministry were not immediately returned.

Comments

TRENDING

Impact of state repression? Kashmir's 65% people prefer independence: Cambridge study

By Rajiv Shah 
Even as the Government of India’s controversial move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories is not only refusing to down die but has acquired international dimensions, a recent study, published by the Cambridge University Press, has claimed “pro-independence attitudes” among that 65% of Kashmiris, warning, this sentiment worsens when the state machinery resorts “repressive violence”.

Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.

Congress' anti-democratic laws led to Modi govt's 'Constitutional' changes: Scholars

Counterview Desk
A large number of academics* said to be belonging to several Indian and international institutions, even as taking strong exception to the Narendra Modi government's alleged move to amend the Constitution through "illegitimate" means, have taken strong exception to their colleagues in academia who we have become "all too accustomed to adopting a calculated silence in the face of such indignities."

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.

Kashmir normal? Schoolboys, teenagers being arbitrarily picked up, detained: Report

Counterview Desk
A four-person team, consisting of Jean Dr├Ęze, well-known development economist; Kavita Krishnan, who is with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist); Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), back from a five-day fact-finding mission (August 9-13) from Kashmir, has said that people they spoke to “expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India.”
In a report, “Kashmir Caged”, released along with a short eight-minute film, they said, the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, dissolution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), and bifurcating it into two Union Territories, is not being supported by anyone they met, except for BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, who claimed 46% vote share in J&K.
Excerpts from the report: When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passeng…

Modi's Gujarati mind? Why govt move to 'sell-off' defence PSUs isn't in national interest

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Standing Committee on Defence, 2017-18, of the 16th Lok Sabha highlights the idea of Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured). The Committee expressed concern over the import content of equipments produced and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OFs) and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) because of the dependence it creates for military hardware on foreign suppliers.

Central Gujarat effluent channel 'releasing' highly polluted industrial wastewater: PM told

Counterview Desk
Senior environmentalists of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant, in an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Gujarat chief minister, the Gujarat chief secretary, and senior Government of India and Gujarat government officials dealing with environment, pollution and climate change have said that the authorities’ response their pleas to take action against the leakages and flow of polluted wastewater from the effluent channels of Central Gujarat industrial areas has met with complete inertia.

Can't go to court with RTI information, rule Ahmedabad authorities: Kankaria accident

By Pankti Jog*
In a shocking reply to an application filed by me, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) authorities have said that the information provided under the Right to Information (RT) Act should be used in court or in a judicial process. The Act is known to be a major tool that enables citizens to seek certified copies of documents, records from any public authority of state and Central government within 30 days, as per provisions of the Act.

Quit India Movement 'betrayal' and dubious role of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS leaders

By Shamsul Islam*
After the recent guillotine of Article 370, Hindutva ideologue Ram Madhav, while celebrating the occasion stated that it was honouring of the sacrifices of Dr Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and thousands others who laid down their lives for its removal. It is to be noted that Dr Mukherjee was a cadre of RSS and was groomed into a Hindutva leader by another Hindutva icon, VD Savarkar.

Strategy for united struggle against Hindutva 'fascism': Ideological silence is 'no option'

By Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
Electoral alliance and opportunism of national and regional political parties, neoliberal economic marginalisation and soft secular Hindutva line pandering to Hindu majoritarianism laid the foundation of Hindutva fascism in post-colonial India.