New Delhi, Sep. 4 : A senior journalist from Jammu and Kashmir told the Supreme Court Wednesday that “communication blockade” still prevails in the valley and scribes were facing “hostility and aggression” in seeking access for their work.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, said constant monitoring of news reports sent through a “makeshift media centre” in Srinagar, disregard for press cards and movement passes and deletion of photos and videos shot by scribes is “causing fear and anxiety” among them.
“This fear is generating a chilling effect on journalists who have to be very careful not to annoy the authorities and security forces with their reportage, even though the same constitutes honest and impartial reporting,” the affidavit said.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is scheduled to hear the plea on Thursday.
Bhasin’s affidavit said that some journalists have been issued a movement pass, which is akin to curfew pass, but it does not ensure unrestricted access to all public places to enable them to perform their work.
“The movement of journalists is decided by security forces manning the check points, who often do not allow journalists holding a movement pass, to move from one area to the other,” it said.
“Unconstitutional fetters on the dual rights — of the press and media to report and the right to know of the people of Kashmir — cannot be sustained in law much less on the basis of mere conjecture, alarm, suspicions and surmises,” the affidavit said.
It further said that Editor-in-chief of Kashmir Times newspaper, Prabodh Jamwal, had travelled to Srinagar from Jammu on August 28 and returned on August 31 and he had informed Bhasin about the status of communication shutdown and information blackout in Kashmir.
“Movement of journalists, including photo and video journalists, in Srinagar continues to be restricted by security forces who man the check posts, barricades and concertina wires that are erected across the city,” it said.
“Journalists are not being allowed to enter certain parts of Srinagar, especially the downtown area which is considered as a sensitive locality. Despite having movement passes issued by the divisional commissioner, journalists are not allowed to enter downtown by the security forces,” it said.
It said that on being asked, the scribes are not given the reasons as to under what orders or law they were being denied entry.
“Many journalists have faced hostility and aggression while seeking access and are fearful of the security forces at the check point,” it said, adding that “the information blackhole around the rural areas and other districts of Kashmir thus continues.”
Sue to the restrictions, newspapers have reduced their publication from the usual 12-16 pages to 2-4 pages per edition, it said.
“Photo journalists and video-graphers have reported to being frequently hauled up by either the police or security forces and in several instances the photographs and videos shot by them have been forcefully deleted,” it said.
“Despite the assurances of normalcy given in many fora by senior government officials, a debilitating communication blockade continues as mobile and internet services remain shutdown across Kashmir valley for almost one month now,” it said.
The affidavit said the state authorities have set up a makeshift media centre in a private hotel in Sonwar, Srinagar but it has only four computers and one mobile phone without internet facility for the use of scribes.
“This media centre cannot in any manner be considered as satisfying the freedom of the press guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India nor does it provide an enabling environment to the press to function independently in Kashmir,” the affidavit said.
“With the communication and information blackout prevailing in Kashmir, journalists fear that if state authorities or security personnel were to target them for their honest reporting, then they will have no avenue to seek protection and justice,” it said.
The apex court had on August 28 asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to reply to Bhasin’s plea seeking directions for restoration of all modes of communication, including mobile internet and landline services, throughout the state in order to provide an enabling environment for the media to practise its profession.
Light snowfall in many parts of Kashmir, min temp rises
Many parts of Kashmir received fresh light snowfall on Saturday, leading to an increase in the minimum temperature which brought some relief to the people from the intense cold conditions, the meteorological department said.
A MeT official said the weather would remain generally cloudy in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh Union territories on Saturday with chances of light rain or snow.
“Light snowfall of two to five inches occurred at many places of Kashmir, hilly areas of Jammu and on the higher reaches of Ladakh,” he said.
The official said the weather would remain generally cloudy in both the Union territories on Saturday.
“A spell of widespread light to moderate snowfall is likely to occur during January 6 to 7 evening,” he said.
The official said the fresh snowfall brought some relief to the residents in the Valley from the intense cold conditions as the night temperature showed improvement.
Srinagar city recorded a low of minus 0.1 degree Celsius Friday night over three degrees up from minus 3.7 degrees Celsius the previous night.
The official said the ski-resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 6.5 degrees Celsius two degrees up from the previous night.
The night temperature at Pahalgam resort, which also serves as one of the base camps for the annual Amarnath yatra in south Kashmir, settled at a low of minus 2.5 degrees Celsius over seven degrees up from minus 10.0 degrees Celsius Thursday night, he said.
The official said Qazigund the gateway town to the valley – in south Kashmir recorded a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius up over six degrees from the previous night’s minus 7.0 degrees Celsius.
Kokernag town, also in south, recorded a low of minus 2.1 degrees Celsius, while Kupwara, in north, registered the minimum temperature at 0.8 degree Celsius, the official said.
The mercury in Leh in Ladakh settled at a low of minus 18.3 degrees Celsius, he said.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai-Kalan’ – the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are most frequent and maximum and minimum temperatures drop considerably.
‘Chillai-Kalan’ began on December 21 and it will end on January 31. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai-Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai-Bachha’ (baby cold).
Militants hurl grenade at CRPF personnel in Srinagar
Suspected militants hurled a grenade at Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Kawdara locality in Srinagar on Saturday, resulting in damage to several vehicles, police said.
However, there was no immediate report of any casualty or injury, they said.
A grenade was hurled by militants to target the CRPF personnel posted in Kawdara locality of the interior area of the city in the afternoon, police said.
The area was cordoned off immediately after the explosion and further details are awaited.
I-League: Chennai City goes down to Real Kashmir
Real Kashmir downed the reigning champion Chennai City FC 2-1 at the TRC Turf Ground on Thursday. The match was the first big sporting event in the valley since it became a union territory.
Danish Farooq Bhat opened the scoring for Real Kashmir in the 22nd minute before Bazie Armand doubled the lead lie minutes later.
Syed Suhail Pasha’s second half goal halved the deficit for Chennai City but Real Kashmir held on to its lead for its first win of the season. The three points lifted the home side above the visitor into seventh place.
Chennai City hasn’t made a convincing defence of its crown having picked up just five points in as many games.
There were security concerns in the lead up to the game due to the abrogation of Article 370 and the ensuing lockdown in the valley.
The match wasn’t telecast on the official broadcaster DSport. “Due to the ongoing internet connectivity issues in the Kashmir region, today’s match between @ChennaiCityFC & @realkashmirfc will not be telecasted on DSPORT,” DSport posted on its official Twitter page.