Srinagar: Media Professionals based in Kashmir carried out a protest at city centre Poloview on Thursday, October 3, demanding an immediate end to the ongoing clampdown on communication services
As many as hundred journalists from local as well as international press gathered inside the premises of Kashmir Press Club (KPC) and held a sit-in protest carrying placards with messages like ‘Stop criminalising Journalism in Kashmir’ and ‘End information blockade in Kashmir’.
Umer Mukhtar, a journalist with a local Kashmiri daily, told NewsClick that whenever there is turmoil in Kashmir, media becomes the first casualty. “It is as if we are working under an authoritarian regime. We are working under extraordinary circumstances and there is no other example like this in the world,” he said.
Rashid Maqbool, a senior journalist, said, “When the entire world is living in an age of technology revolution, we are being subjected to an unprecedented clampdown.” He pointed out, “It takes us days to cover news as most of modern tools of journalism, like phones and internet, have been rendered useless. The moment we follow an update it becomes stale given the number of hurdles created due to the clampdown.”
Two months have passed since the government imposed restrictions in Kashmir, and shut down all communication services like mobile phones and internet services as they revoked Article 370 and 35A and subsequently bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.
Media professionals working in Kashmir have alleged an unprecedented clampdown on press in the valley since the current turmoil began on August 5. Several reporters and photojournalists have claimed that they were on several instances not allowed to travel or report in particular areas and on certain issues. The government, however, established what they called the ‘media facilitation centre’ at a private hotel in Srinagar with four computers, which they later upgraded with a few more. Almost all journalists use the centre to send their updates and reports.
Journalists, during the protest at KPC, expressed serious apprehensions about the media facilitation centre, many even calling it a “media monitoring centre.” “There are security cameras inside the centre and we do not feel secure enough to file stories. The systems are continuously monitored by the state information department and there is no privacy to file. We have to sacrifice our privacy and security to file stories from the media centre,” another journalist Mohammad Raafi told NewsClick.
Dozens of newspapers and online news portals have not been able to update any stories online since August 5 due to the clampdown. Many have already lost their jobs while scores of others fear they are also on the verge of losing jobs due to the crisis, especially those working with local media.
Following the sit-in protests, the protesting journalists took out a rally from the press club towards the Mushtaq Ali press enclave in Lal Chowk.