Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Journalists and media organisations in Indian-administered Kashmir say they’re involved over a brand new directive issued by the police prohibiting reporters from approaching the websites of gun-battles and masking “law and order” conditions, saying it places the “national security in jeopardy”.
Within the directive issued late on Tuesday, the disputed area’s police chief, Inspector Common Vijay Kumar, requested media personnel “not to come closer to encounter sites” and “not carry live coverage of any encounter” with armed rebels, who for many years have been combating for both an impartial Kashmir state or its merger with neighbouring Muslim-majority Pakistan.
The area’s police mentioned “freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions” and requested the media to not “interfere in professional and bonafide duty” of police and safety forces at “encounter” websites – a euphemism for alleged extrajudicial killings by the police.
“No operational content should be carried which is likely to incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of [law and order] or which promotes anti-national sentiment,” mentioned the directive.
The order has been criticised by a dozen Kashmiri journalist teams. “If this is a part of the official policy of police then it appears to be a tactic to coerce journalists into not reporting facts on the ground,” the teams mentioned in a joint assertion.
“It also seems to be a part of the string of measures taken by the authorities to suppress freedom of press in the region. Summoning journalists to police stations, filing FIRs and seeking informal explanations for their work has intensified in the past two years,” it added.
The assertion mentioned Kashmiri journalists “have worked under tremendous pressure for the past several decades and despite facing threats to life, liberty and property, they upheld the principles of journalism and reporting”, including that “such attacks on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful”.
One pointed a pellet gun and one other kicked a neighborhood photographer @QisarMir
after chasing us away whereas masking clashes close to the gunfight web site in Pulwama right this moment. On a regular basis story of a journalist in #Kashmir.@CPJAsia @RSF_inter
Video:Syed shahriyar pic.twitter.com/nt1w84GuZX
— Syed Shahriyar (@shahriyarsyed1) April 2, 2021
Final week, a photojournalist was kicked by a policeman throughout the protection of a gun battle in southern Kashmir; a video of the incident was extensively shared on social media, triggering criticism over the therapy of journalists by the Indian authorities.
‘State of repression’
Farooq Javed Khan, president of Kashmir Press Photographers Affiliation, a neighborhood union of photojournalists within the area, informed Al Jazeera the brand new directives will affect their work.
“We do not go close to the gunfights, we always cooperate with the authorities. Our cameras show the reality, they capture what they see, we don’t create anything of our own,” he mentioned. “We shoot and leave the spot, that’s all we do.”
After India stripped its solely Muslim-majority area of its particular constitutional standing in August 2019, a crippling safety lockdown and communications blackout was imposed for months, stopping native journalists from doing their jobs.
To additional muzzle the press, which already operates in one of many world’s most militarised areas, the Indian authorities final yr launched a brand new media coverage that enables it to find out what’s “fake news” and “anti-national” content material.
Within the final two years, many Kashmiri journalists have been summoned and booked by the police. At the least 19 journalists have been killed within the Kashmir battle since an armed revolt towards Indian rule started within the 1990s.
In March 2020, the Worldwide Press Institute mentioned journalism in Indian-administered Kashmir is underneath “a dramatic state of repression”.
“The state is using a mix of harassment, intimidation, surveillance and online information control to silence critical voices and force journalists to resort to self-censorship,” mentioned the media watchdog.
Laxmi Murthy, co-founder of Free Speech Collective, an organisation that advocates freedom of expression, informed Al Jazeera the “recent strictures, coming as they do in the backdrop of a lack of transparency and lack of access to official sources for verification will further impede accurate reporting”.
“Reporters in Kashmir do the important job of verifying events on the ground and informing the public. Free flow of verified news is crucial to a functioning democracy and the latest advisory does not bode well for genuine journalism in the public interest.”