On 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, the Government of India banned Kashmir Reader, a four-year-old newspaper published from Srinagar. It was accused by the government for publishing content "that could incite violence and disturb public tranquillity". They were further ordered the printer and publisher to abstain from printing and publishing of the newspaper till further orders. While the Jammu and Kashmir government is facing a severe criticism for banning the four-year-old local English daily, no official response has been given by the government in the press, explaining their reasons to the public.
"When our newspaper provides space to people who engage, through ideas, with questions on the right to self-determination, powerlessness and duplicity of "elected" governments in Jammu and Kashmir, we are charged with "inciting violence," Mir Hilal , the editor of Kashmir Reader ironically states in his interview with the Firstpost.
While the newspaper may have been temporarily gagged, the Kashmiri journalists have continued questioning the government's draconian decision. Our Community Correspondent in Srinagar talks to one such journalist,
Moazum Mohammad, Senior Correspondent from Kashmir Reader to understand how this gag has affected the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press in the Valley.
Moazum asks a very important question through the video that required consideration, " Is this a warning shot to journalism in India, to toe a particular line?"
Freedom of Speech, a Constitutional Indian Right
The importance of freedom of expression and speech is stated in the preamble of Indian constitution itself. It ensures all citizens inter alia, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. In the constitution, Freedom of Speech is classified at a fundamental and human right in Article 19(1) (a) as “freedom of speech and expression”.
Explaining the scope of freedom of speech and expression Supreme Court has said that the words "freedom of speech and expression" must be broadly constructed to include the freedom to circulate one's views by words of mouth or in writing or through audiovisual instrumentalities. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one's own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. It thus includes the expression of one's idea through any communicable medium or visible representation, such as gesture, signs, and the like. Source
Freedom of Press
While the Article 19 does not explicitly include Freedom of Press, the Supreme Court put it very precisely in one of its judgements, the Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. the Union of India.
It stated “In today’s free world freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse. The press has now assumed the role of the public educator making formal and non-formal education possible in a large scale particularly in the developing world, where television and other kinds of modern communication are not still available for all sections of society. The purpose of the press is to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate [Government] cannot make responsible judgments. Newspapers being purveyors of news and views having a bearing on public administration very often carry material which would not be palatable to Governments and other authorities.” Source
Keeping these fundamental rights in view, what would you think of the government's decision to ban Kashmir Reader?
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent from Kashmir.
Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories.
These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges.
See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.
A MBBS student from Kashmir, stressed by exams and the pandemic, uses art to unwind.
The Union government's Soubhagya Jyoti scheme aimed to electrify every Indian village by Mar 2019. But that ambition is yet to be realised.