Farzana Mumtaz/ Rameez Makhdoomi
Many believe and state that media especially local media in Kashmir is being muzzled. In dramatic turnaround of events, On Sunday, 2 October, 2016 , the J-K government ordered ban on the publication of English Daily Kashmir Reader. The ban order issued by Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Farooq Ahmad Lone read that the newspaper contains “material and content which tends to incite acts of violence and disturb public peace and tranquility”. An official release issued by the Director Information Chowdhary said the ban order was issued a week after a notice was served to the newspaper, asking it to explain its position on a series of stories published by it.
Curbs on media in Kashmir has enraged one and all. From activists, Journalists to Media associations all are aghast over muzzling of media in Kashmir and are on roads protesting the move.
Irony could have been much evident in Kashmir as October 2 is World Non Violence Day on account of Gandhi Jyanti and ban on Kashmir Reader was announced on same day.
The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) termed the ban on Kashmir Reader as “against the spirit of democracy and freedom of press”, sought intervention of the Press Council of India and warned of “direct action” if the government failed to revoke the ban immediately
On gagging of media and other censorship, the Jammu and Kashmir Young Journalists Association stated –“ on one hand tall claims of ‘Digital India’ are being made on different platforms, but on the other hand freedom of expression was completely restricted in Kashmir, adding, it was unfortunate on part of government to ban mobile internet and prepaid mobile services which is mandatory for a scribe in present modern times to perform his/her professional duties.”
Commenting over the ban on the publication of a local daily JKYJA said it was highly deplorable that the ruling dispensation was indulging in such activities which were totally anti-democratic and amounts to muzzle the voice of people in Kashmir.
Arshie Zuhar, a young lawyer and activist states – “The Jammu and Kashmir Government in continuation of the unholy murderous war against the civilians of the state have axed the leading daily “Kashmir Reader”, citing ‘incitement of violence’ a reason. The moments of thought, reason and logic, have as a matter of fact no qualified claimants in the alleged state government ( for nothing works except police). The press like a common citizen enjoys freedom of speech and expression and the same is guarded and protected by the constitution of India. The argument of ‘reasonable restriction’ is also as important as the right itself. The conflict of ‘reasonable restrictions’ and ‘arbitrary restraint’ is as conflicting as twilight is to light. A ‘Normalcy’ hungry , civilly defunct government would in no point of imagination be in a position to Order ‘ Reasonable restriction’ and as a result of such defunct setup, the hawkish order of ban must be questioned and every presumption raised of it being at war with reason.
Freedom of Press highlights the collective freedom of society and refers to the privileges, freedom and liberty a nation enjoys. Banning a Newspaper for reporting the facts as they are, must in every sense of reason, give a picture of the state machinery. The state order of banning Kashmir Reader is punitive not only to the press but to the existence of humanity and truth. Reporting facts of state sponsored violence should never have invoked the Ban on Kashmir Reader as it could more appropriately be termed as “Selective Targeting” since all leading dallies have been reporting the same stories of alarming state violence. This arbitrary and undemocratic state behavior should be countered by rule of law and such irresponsibility be answered with the intense condemnation.”
As a matter of fact, The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
But here in Kashmir it seems very fundamentals are attacked and resultantly Media is being muzzled.