Very strict curfew enforcement in several cities in Kashmir since 12 September has had a dramatic effect on the free flow of news and information and the ability of journalists to work. Several local publications and regional TV stations are paralysed because their personnel cannot leave their homes and several reporters have been beaten by police.
A total of 94 people have been killed since the violence and unrest erupted in Kashmir last June.
“Trying to maintain order should not be confused with preventing the media from working,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Jammu and Kashmir state authorities and the security forces that are enforcing the curfew are failing to consider the importance of the local media’s work, or else there is an undeclared intention to prevent Kashmir’s media from operating during the protests.”
Even if the authorities have granted many curfew passes to journalists based in Srinagar, the state capital, the police and paramilitaries operating in the city are preventing journalists from circulating and from going to their place of work, and the circulation of newspapers has been hampered.
The main news programmes on the regional TV stations, especially Sen TV, Take 1 and Mouj Kashmir, have been suspended for the past few days. The authorities have also been pressuring some of these stations’ executives to suspend their broadcast coverage of the protests.
According to several sources, the authorities are also pressuring cable TV operators to stop transmitting local TV stations and Pakistani stations. Press TV, an Iranian English-language station, was banned after broadcasting controversial footage of the supposed desecration of copies of the Koran.
As a result of the curfew, the regional dailies Greater Kashmir , Kashmir Times and Rising Kashmir are no longer being printed in Srinagar. Radio Kashmir had to cancel its morning press review because of the lack of newspapers.
Greater Kashmir reported on its website that the newspaper has not been available in print form in Srinagar since 14 September but it is continuing to publish a full version on the website.
In one of the latest cases of violence against journalists, Sanam Ajaz, the assistant managing director of the local operations of privately-owned JK Networks, was attacked and beaten by policemen as he was going to his office on 15 September although he had a curfew pass.
A recent statement by the Kashmir Press Association accused the authorities of facilitating the work of journalists from New Delhi while imposing harsh restrictions on those who are based in Kashmir.