‘Freedom of press’ means the right to print and publish without any interference from the state or any other public authority. But this, Freedom, like other freedoms, cannot be absolute but is subject to well-known exceptions acknowledge in the public interests, Which in India are enumerated in Article 19 of the constitution.

Press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir is under serious threat from the security forces and the regional administration.Media is referred to as fourth essential pillar of democracy.With the result media in contemporary times have become an all important appendage of our life Media represents society and both are engaged in a symbiotic relationship .Media is voice of people.The media in Kashmir are struggling for survival like a patient on ventilator. The media in Kashmir faces enormous challenges to highlight the issue and plight of people in this contested land. Media here has often been muzzled and government and its agencies brook no dissent. Any attempt is met with an iron fist.

During past few decades,Kashmir witnessed blanket ban on media especially newspapers which are the prime source of authentic news in the valley.Government introduced draconian laws to stop local media from functioning. Television channels were forced off air, newspapers were not allowed to print for weeks, and text messaging was banned as well as internet service is also suspended for a long period of time. It was complete communication  blackout. Media must be free from government authority and influence if it is to perform its role of watchdog but in reality if local journalist try to show the reality S/He is being charged.e.g Masrat zehra kashmiri journalist charged for ‘anti-national social post.The purpose of this   is to give a status of media freedom in democratic setup in Kashmir and to assess the level of enjoyment of right to freedom of expression by the Kashmiri media in general and print media in particular. Based on empirical findings, the present paper attempts to throw light on the problems that the media in Kashmir is facing while reporting the conflict.

Freedom of press in Kashmir is limited and constrain  a  repressive and oppressive atmosphere, like media, people too are reluctant to speak freely and provide information to journalists. Journalists face severe restrictions in all processes of news gathering, verification and dissemination and are asked by authorities to reveal sources of stories considered sensitive or adverse to the government and security forces . journalists do not have enough freedom to report reality but are compelled to report the versions of the reality.The risk for journalists in Kashmir is high as journalists  have been killed in past or injured.Since 1990, 19 journalists have been killed including Shujaat Bukhari. Media is free to report but the truth is altogether different; media is also governed by the certain rules and regulations that every media  person (journalists) has to follow. This right to freedom of speech and expression is also subject to certain limitations imposed. The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state .

For example: Naseer Ganai, who has been working as a journalist in Kashmir for more than 10 years, told Al Jazeera that he was called by the counterinsurgency forces on February 9 and interrogated for four hours.

“They called me and took my phone, my laptop. They told me they want to check where do statements or mails for stories come. I don’t know what they did with my phone and laptop,” he said.

“They kept me interrogating for hours. This means in this place even my phone or laptop is not my own. They can call anytime and take it. There is no privacy to work for journalists here, this is mentally very disturbing.”

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

When the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the constitution without taking elected legislative assembly on board and mainstream leadership on board, which had guaranteed Jammu and Kashmir autonomy, in early August 2019 there began a news blackout in the region.

Television, telephone and internet links were cut, leaders were arrested and no one knew what was happening.

It  was difficult to get news out of Jammu and Kashmir. For  many years, stringent restrictions on freedom of expression had become a way of life in this troubled state

The media in Kashmir was always under onslaught, but post the Abrogation of Article 370 the gloves have been taken off completely with journalists fighting it much difficult to report freely.

Mobile phone signals were often blocked, and the internet was  occasionally snapped .This had affected people in many ways and they run in losses and meant that it was hard to get any impartial news out of the area.

After the revoked of Article 370 on 5th August  things became more difficult  to the people. schools and colleges were shut, tourists were ordered to leave, telephone and internet services were suspended and regional political leaders were placed under house arrest.The central government only restored the cellular and 2G internet services on January 25. However, in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, people in J&K, especially the doctors and students, are facing the brunt of the communication shutdown. The relevance of high-speed Internet services was never no critical as it is in the ongoing pandemic. The government continues to curb dissent and deprive the people of the valley of the basic fundamental right of access to the Internet in the ongoing pandemic and now took the excuse of ‘national security’.

After every violent incident in Kashmir , communication is blocked , people were reported to be queuing outside government offices for hours for just two-minute phone conversations with family members outside Kashmir.

Even after 12 months the situation has not improved a graveyard silence continues to haunt Kashmir.

Limya Mahajan is pursuing my Master’s Degree from Islamic University of science and technology Awantipora, in the field of Journalism


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