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Communication blockade continues in Kashmir; scribes facing hostility, SC informed

Press Trust of India

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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.


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Ignoring protests, Gates Foundation to give Narendra Modi global award

Agencies

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New York: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be awarding the Global Gatekeepers Award to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in India’s achievement sanitation, the organisation has announced.

“Modi is receiving an award at the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the progress India is making in improving sanitation, as part of its drive toward achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” the Foundation said in a statement to IANS on Wednesday.

“Sanitation is a key factor in improving the health and well-being of millions of people, especially women and children,” it added.

Modi is being recognised by the foundation in New York on September 24 for the Swachh Bharat Mission of which the constructions of toilets is a key element.

A motley collection of Indian secularists, Pakistanis, activists and entertainers have opposed the award to Modi alleging he was responsible for human rights violations and for India rescinding the special status for Kashmir.

Some influential US media also published articles demanding that the Foundation cancel the award.

The publications include Foreign Policy magazine’s website, and Washington Post that is owned by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, which has disputes with the Indian government. The Post published an opinion article by two Indian-origin lawyers.

An organisation called S Asian Philanthropy published in the Medium a letter signed by people of Indian origin and others representing various foundations and NGOs.

National Public Radio reported that a dozen demonstrators with “Stop Genocide, a project of the American human rights group Justice For All”, delivered a petition with 100,000 signatures to the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle protesting the award for Modi.

The radio also said that three Nobel Peace Prize winners – Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman of Yemen and Mairead Maguire of Britain – had also sent the Gates a protest letter.

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Transition of JK and Ladakh to Union territories will be smooth, says Jitendra

Press Trust of India

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Union minister Jitendra Singh on Wednesday said the transition of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to Union territories will be smooth and there will be no cadre issues pertaining to IAS or any other services. The mechanism that will finally evolve after due deliberations will be in the best interest of all the stakeholders, the Union Minister of State in-charge of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said, addressing the annual conference of chief secretaries and principal secretaries of all the states and Union territories, organised by his department.

“The transition of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to Union territories will be smooth and there will be no cadre issues pertaining to IAS or any other services,” Singh said at the conference, which was aimed at deliberating upon the issues relating to personnel management of the All India Services officers. The government had taken several initiatives to provide a conducive working atmosphere to the officers so that they could perform to the best of their potential, the minister said.

Last year, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was amended after 30 years to give further protection to honest and performing officers, but at the same time, the government had been very strict in dealing with officials involved in corruption cases or with a record of poor performance, he added.

Singh said the nature of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence had entirely changed in the recent years. Now, civil servants are being rewarded for implementation of the government’s flagship programmes, with a huge participation of the district collectors.

Referring to the government’s decision to post young IAS officers as assistant secretaries in central ministries in order to provide them exposure as regards the functioning of the government, the minister said this will enable them to familiarise themselves with the Centre’s flagship schemes and implement the same when they go to their respective states.

This may help the newly-appointed IAS officers to have a more balanced perspective before they go to their states, he added. Singh also promised full cooperation and coordination from the Centre to ensure a speedy and transparent administration across the country.

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Army nabs Gurdaspur man on charges of spying for Pakistan

Press Trust of India

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Gurdaspur, September 19: A resident of Tibri village here was nabbed by Army officials for allegedly providing photographs of the cantonment area and the under-construction Kartarpur corridor to someone in Pakistan, police said on Thursday.

Vipan Singh was held by Army personnel on Wednesday, said Kulwinder Singh, Station House Officer (SHO), Purana Shalla police station in Gurdaspur.Officers of the military intelligence were still questioning Singh, the police said, adding that he was yet to be handed over to them.

The suspect was allegedly offered Rs 10 lakh for providing sensitive information, though it was yet be verified, the police said.Pakistan is building the corridor from the Indian border to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, while the other part from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur up to the border is being built by India.

 

The Kartarpur corridor will connect Darbar Sahib–the final resting place of Guru Nanak in Pakistan’s Kartarpur–with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district and facilitate visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims, who will have to just obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib

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