The Indian Women’s Press Corps on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” over the continued communication blackout in Jammu and Kashmir which has resulted in the lack of press freedom. The region has been under intense security clampdown since August 4, a day before the Centre announced that it was revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and splitting the state into two Union Territories.
“The media is a key element in the functioning of democracy, especially because it acts as a pressure valve in the expression of dissent,” the women’s press corps said in a statement. It added that the role of the media was even more important in a democracy.
It highlighted how much communication links were important for the media to function. “One week after the government’s decision to abrogate Art 370 which gave special status to J&K, internet mostly remains suspended,” it said. “In a digital age, that is as good as shutting down the media.” The women’s press corps also praised journalists in Kashmir who are “doing their job in the teeth of obstacles in their path”.
On August 5, the government decided to end Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split it into two Union Territories. The Lok Sabha passed the proposals on August 6. Five days later, the police in Jammu and Kashmir eased restrictions placed on public gatherings for afternoon prayers. Phone services and internet connections were partially restored on Friday morning and restrictions on movement were eased to facilitate the prayers. Prohibitory orders were reportedly reimposed on Monday.
The women’s press corps’ statement came three days after the Editors Guild of India said it was the government’s duty to allow the press to function freely. The guild had also urged the government, to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of all journalists reporting from the ground. “Media transparency has and always should be India’s strength, not fear,” it had said.