London, July 4: India may slip further from its current 138th place in the World Press Freedom Index as four journalists were murdered in less than six months amidst a sharp rise in hate speech, a global media watchdog warned on Wednesday in its first report on the country.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it had come out with a report exclusively on India in view of the “increase in breaches of press freedom” in India in the past six months.
In the 2018 Index, published in April this year, India was ranked at the 138th position out of 180 countries, two places lower than in 2017, and the situation has continued to deteriorate.
“As a result, the Abuses and Environment indicators, which contribute to the country’s evaluation for the Index, show a negative trend and point to another decline in its ranking in the 2019 edition unless the authorities take steps to rectify the situation,” it said.
On July 3, RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling him that the first Incident Report had been issued in relation to press freedom in the country, the media watchdog said in a statement.
“In the first six months of 2018, at least as many reporters were killed as for the whole of 2017, while hate speech directed toward journalists has increased massively, causing serious concern for their safety,” the letter noted.
The recent killings of the journalists took place amidst a sharp rise in hate speech.
On June 14, Shujaat Bukhari, editor of the renowned Kashmir-based newspaper ‘Rising Kashmir’, was shot dead as he left his office in Srinagar.
Sandeep Sharma, who had been investigating illegal sand mining, was crushed to death by a garbage truck in Madhya Pradesh on March 26.
A day earlier, two other journalists, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, subeditors with the daily ‘Dainik Bhaskar’, were deliberately run over and killed by an SUV in Bihar, the statement said.
This kind of intimidation, which affects journalists expressing even the mildest criticism of the current government, creates a harsh climate of self-censorship and even propaganda, it said.
The RSF said it was introducing the ‘Incident Report’ procedure for cases where it has observed a deterioration in one or more of the indicators used to determine the positions of the 180 countries ranked in the World Press Freedom Index.
The RSF is an international non-profit, non-governmental organisation that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press.
Cable operators asked to stop airing ‘prohibited channels’
Srinagar, July 18: The Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered based cable operators to immediately shut the telecasting and transmitting the prohibited satellite channels in the Valley for ‘maintaining peace and tranquility.’
An order issued by the additional district commissioner (ADC), Srinagar, dated July 12, and was sent to all heads of cable operators in Srinagar.
The order accused the cable operators of “telecasting and transmitting unpermitted and banned private satellite channels within the jurisdiction of Srinagar district.”
“J&K government, home department, vide Ps/home/2018-60 dated July 2, 2018, has reported that you are telecasting and transmitting unpermitted and banned private satellite channels within Srinagar,” read the order.
“It has become necessary and expedient in the larger interest of public and maintenance of peace and tranquillity to prohibit (you) from transmitting non-permitted TV channels (which are not permitted by the Union ministry of information and broadcasting).”
The order also said now, therefore, in an exercise of powers conferred by section 19 of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 “you are hereby directed to immediately stop telecasting/transmitting non-permitted TV channels/banned private satellite channels within three days.”
The cable operators also have been asked to furnish the notarised affidavit before the ADC Srinagar. In case the cable operators fail to submit the affidavit, the order reads “action under the provision of CTN (regulation) act 1995 will be taken against you”.
KCC&I concerned, asked JK Govt to take up the matter with I&B
Srinagar, July 18: Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCC&I) Wednesday voiced concern at the prohibition on transmission of particular channels by the State.
The State Government has directed cable operators to stop transmission and telecast of around 30 channels.
“We have been given to understand that some of these channels may be prohibited by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. Most of these channels are predominantly religious or news channels with a huge following amongst the Muslim majority of Kashmir,” President KCC&I, Javid Ahmad Tenga said in a statement.
“In case it is felt that some channels are a threat to peace and tranquility of the State, they may be identified and banned, but we see no reason to prohibit the transmission of channels related to religion and news,” he said.
Tenga added that KCC&I shall also take up the issue with the I&B Ministry.
“In the meantime, the State Government needed to identify particular channels which pose a threat and the rest of the channels should be allowed to be transmitted. It needed to be appreciated that a large number of employment is generated in this sector and such prohibitions would adversely impact this sector. This also infringes upon the religious freedom of the majority community of our State and the State Government is requested to take up this issue with the I&B Ministry as well,” he said.
Kathua case defence counsel appointed AAG: Mehbooba, Omar criticise decision
Srinagar, July 18: The Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed Aseem Sawhney, one of the defence lawyers in the Kathua rape and murder case, as an additional advocate general of the state, drawing criticism from former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.
In an order issued on Tuesday, the state government appointed 31 advocates as additional advocates general, deputy advocates general and government advocates, with 15 in the Kashmir wing of the high court and 16 in the Jammu wing.
One the 16 names of law officers for the Jammu wing is Aseem Sawhney — one of the defence lawyers in the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old nomad girl in Kathua.
Sawhney has been appointed as an additional advocate general.
The appointment has raised eyebrows. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti called it a “shocking violation” of the spirit of justice and alleged that it will encourage “rape culture”.
She also voiced hope that the Governor will intervene in the issue.
NC leader Omar Abdullah said the decision was both inexplicable and worrisome.
“Ironic that a day after celebrating World Day for International Justice, the defence counsel in the horrific rape & (and) murder Kathua case has been appointed as Additional Advocate General,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter.
“Rewarding those who defend alleged murderers & rapists is abhorrent & a shocking violation of the spirit of justice. Such a move will only serve to encourage the rape culture rampant in our society. Expect the @jandkgovernor to intervene,” she said in another tweet.
Reacting to the issue, Abdullah tweeted: “The decision is both inexplicable & worrisome but if the victim’s lawyer is not unduly concerned by this development the rest of us should just let her get on with the job of ensuring justice for the young victim.”
The brutal rape and murder of the girl belonging to a minority nomadic community, in a village close to Kathua in Jammu region had sparked outrage in the country. She had disappeared on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
According to the charge sheet, the victim was held in captivity at a small village temple where she was kept sedated and sexually assaulted before she was bludgeoned to death.
The trial in the case began on May 31 with the seven accused being produced before the district and sessions judge after the Supreme Court transferred the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot in Punjab for a fair trial following a plea by the victim’s family.
While transferring the case from Kathua to Pathankot, about 30 km away, the apex court directed day-to-day in-camera trial in the case.
FUNDING CASE: NIA not ready to share details of protected witnesses: Report
New Delhi, July 18: After six accused were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in alleged funding case for over six years, there has been no respite for the accused, as the NIA Special Court kept the next hearing on September 6.
According to a senior NIA official, the lawyer of the accused had demanded details, including statements of witnesses.
As per a report by India Today, the NIA has shown its inability to share details of 23 witnesses, who they claimed were protected under Section 17 of the NIA Act, 2008.
The act provides protection of witnesses essentially stating that if the Special Court is satisfied that the life of such witness is in danger, it may take some measures to keeping the identity and address of such witness secret.
Six of the 12 accused had applied for bail, including separatist leaders Raja Mejhrajuddin Kalwal, Bitta Karate, Peer Saifullah, Shahid ul Islam, Akbar khanday and Altaf Fantoosh. Special NIA Judge Poonam Bamba who has been hearing the bail petition has put the next date of hearing after two months.
Businessman Zahoor Watali’s bail was rejected earlier by the court in June earlier this year. He was also not well and even asked for a walking stick to be provided to him.
In the Kashmir financing case of 2017, 12 men were named by the NIA, including Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin and JuD Chief Hafiz Saeed.
Meanwhile, sources said that Asiya Andrabi and two of her female associates, who have been arrested in sedition case, are likely to be soon questioned regarding their role in Kashmir funding case.
Though the organisation was named in the First Information Report (FIR), the anti-terror probe agency did not question the Dukhtaran-e-Milat chief.
Recently, the separatist women trio was sent for 30 day judicial custody in charges of sedition.
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