NEW DELHI, Jan 24: CPI (M) State secretary and former MLA Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami today said that the Internet shutdown in Kashmir for the last nearly six months has virtually stopped free flow of information and journalists continue to face severe restrictions in all processes of news gathering, verification and dissemination leaving behind a troubled silence that bodes ill for freedom of expression and media freedom.
In a statement issue here, he said hundreds of Valley based journalists have had to stand in queues at the ‘Media Facilitation Centre’ – set up by the Government in Srinagar – and rely on a dozen computers with internet access to file their stories and communicate with their editors. Internet facilities remain inadequate for hundreds of journalists and district reporters who can’t make it to the Centre every day.
He said this has virtually made them dependent on the State, and submission to Government-regulated conditions makes a mockery of freedom of the press. The Internet gag has created an information black hole in Kashmir and local press bore the brunt of the blockade. It’s functioning has been crippled and its coverage of how the clampdown affected people’s lives has been severely curtailed or suppressed, he added.
Tarigami said there has been little or no coverage of how people suffered in the months after the communication blockade and clampdown was imposed. There were no reports on the effects of the communication shutdown on everyday lives of people, arrests, crippling of healthcare and other emergency services. What was not covered in the local press said a lot about the curtailment of the freedom of the press, he added.
He said the Constitution of India provides the right of freedom, given in Article 19 with the view of guaranteeing individual rights that were considered vital by the framers of the Constitution. The right to freedom in Article 19 guarantees the freedom of speech and expression, as one of its six freedoms. “As we are going to celebrate 70th Republic Day in two days time, it is imperative on democratic forces including, intelligentsia and the civil society at large, to put their heads together, discuss the situation intensively and highlight the sufferings of people of Jammu and Kashmir and make this BJP Government accountable’’, he added.
He said Internet is just not limited to the right to speech and expression, but several other fundamental rights such as access to healthcare and statutory welfare schemes to which a person is legally entitled.