They Are Killing Our Pages: Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin On Press Freedom In Kashmir
After 43 days of lockdown, the crisis in Kashmir valley still prevails for journalists. Over 300 people have been detained, journalists are forced to carry out their operations from Delhi, as tensions prevail after the Centre abrogated article 370 on August 5, by the Centre. Social-activists are now alleging that they are also debarred from going to the high court of Srinagar to file the petitions.
The Supreme Court on Monday had sought a report from the J&K High Court Chief Justice on the allegations that people were finding it difficult to approach Srinagar Wing of the High Court. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said, “It was “very very serious” if this was the case, as was claimed by a lawyer before the bench.” The CJI further said that he would personally visit Kashmir and assess the situation at the Jammu and Kashmir High Court if needed.
CJI Gogoi made the suggestion after hearing the plea filed by Anuradha Bhasin, the Editor of Kashmir Times, and child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Professor Shanta Sinha. In an exclusive interview with The Logical Indian, journalist, Anuradha Bhasin throws light on Kashmir’s crisis.
Where does Kashmir stand after completing 43 days of lockdown?
There is not much of a difference. The restrictions are little eased as now people can move around more than before. Journalists coming from outside face lesser restrictions. However, journalists from the Valley face more hostility. The reporting is impeded as transportation is still at the halt.
What is the status of communication as the government claims that the landline services have been restored in the Valley?
Most people don’t have landline phones. There are a total of one lakh landline phones available across the Valley including offices. Many people have got private landlines disconnected as they became redundant after mobile-phones. The only way of transmitting news is the Kashmir Media Centre which witnesses a heavy rush.
(The Kashmir Media Centre is a space provided by the administration to the journalists based out of Kashmir to access the Internet)
How is the dispersion of information happening in the Valley since the communication is restricted?
That is the difficulty we are facing. We don’t exactly know what is happening in the first place until the journalists manage to sneak in and dig the information out. There is no access to information. There is no means of verifying fake news. The officials who used to brief media off and on if not daily, are also not ready to speak. They say they are not entitled to release any information.
How have the sales been for the newspapers?
The clampdown does affect the economy and finances of the newspapers. We have not been printing the Kashmir Times Srinagar edition for a month. We are headquartered in Jammu so it’s difficult for us to transfer the soft copy of the pages, take editorial decisions due to such minimal communication.
How many petitions have been filed including Habeas Corpus petitions?
There are several petitions and interventions now have been clubbed together. There are around 7-8 petitions. Two of them were filed by the media union including the petition filed by Indian Working Journalist Union. Rest of the petitions are on human rights violations, detention of minors, and health-related issues.
What is the status of the local reporting?
The newspapers are gradually going back to print 8-10 pages. However, there are just filling the spaces. There are no worthy information, no editorials, nor any comment pieces can be seen in the newspapers.
How many reporters are reporting for the Kashmir Times?
Across the Valley, we are in touch with about 7-8 in Srinagar Bureau. We don’t know about our correspondents and stringers in other districts as we are not in touch with any of them so far. They are not reporting for us. We don’t know whether they are dead or alive.
Anuradha restrained herself from commenting on the judicial proceedings of the petition and the statement passed by CJI Gogoi on visiting Kashmir. Anuradha extended her thanks to journalist fraternity across India for their overwhelming support to the Kashmiri journalists.