Srinagar journalists wear black badges, demand end to the gag on media

Thursday saw the first public protest by journalists in Srinagar,who demanded access to Internet and mobile services, suspended since August 5

Journalists protesting against communication blackout in Srinagar
Journalists protesting against communication blackout in Srinagar

Majid Maqbool

Two months after the Government shut down the Internet in Kashmir, journalists staged a protest at the Srinagar Press Club on Thursday. Demanding an end to the communication blackout, gag orders on the Press and denial of access to the Internet, journalists wore black badges and held placards. They also marched from the press club to Pratap Park, around which are several offices of prominent newspapers and news agencies.

The placards carried slogans such as ‘Journalism is not a crime’, ‘End Press Gag’, ‘Stop Criminalising Journalism’ and ‘We are not mouthpieces’. One of the placards demanded release of journalists from the ‘sub-jail of the Media Facilitation Centre’.

Access to the Internet, denied to people since August 5, is one of the key demands made in a statement signed by members of eleven media bodies. The statement said, “Communication blackout, especially snapping of Internet and mobile services is seriously hampering professional work of journalists operating in the valley.”

The statement said that journalists have had enough of it

“60 days of restrictions on the media, 60 days without any communication and 60 days of information blackout by the government”.

One of the journalists Athar Parvaiz pointed out that journalists have been denied for two months the freedom to work. Newspapers have not been able to upload their web editions since August 5, he pointed out.

Posters carried by protestors 
Posters carried by protestors 
NH Photo

“The prolonged communication blockade has made it impossible for us to work in such a stifling environment,” said Athar.

Two months after the lockdown, the government’s Media Facilitation Centre, he claimed, had just 10 computer terminals and 15 minutes of Internet access to each journalist.

“There is no privacy at the media centre where we are forced to access our emails and send out stories. Everyone can see our emails and the stories we file at the centre,” said Athar. “Also, those living outside Srinagar have to travel long distances every day to reach the media centre,” he added.

Another journalist Quratulain Rehbar felt that the Government could not allow this situation to continue indefinitely. The Government should at least inform how long this state of affairs would continue, he said.

Following the suspension of internet, including broadband internet connections to local newspaper offices, all local newspapers have been publishing fewer copies and with only four to eight pages. Even lease lines of newspapers were shut down.

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