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Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasinhas moved the Supreme Court against restrictions imposed on news media in Jammu and Kashmir.

The petition seeks directions to the State to create an enabling environment for journalists and all other media personnel in all parts of J&K to practise their profession, and lift debilitating restrictions imposed through the complete shutdown on internet and telecommunication servicesafter the clampdown on the entire state on August 4, 2019.

The Petitioner is represented by her lawyers Vrinda Grover, Soutik Banerjee and RatnaAppnender, and it was filed through Sumika Hazarika, Advocate on Record.

The petition has demandedthat in order to ensure the freedom of the press and media, directions be issued for the immediate lifting of debilitating restrictions imposed through the complete shutdown on internet and telecommunication services, and severe curbs on the movement of photo-journalists and reporters.

The petition under Article 32 seeks “the issuance of a writ / order / direction to the Respondents to immediately relax all restrictions on mobile, internet and landline services and the strict restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir and some districts, of Jammu in order to enable journalists to practice their profession and exercise their right to report, in furtherance of their rights under Articles 14, 19(1) (a) and 19( j)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India as well as the Right to Know of the residents of the Kashmir valley.”

The petitioner said that such restrictions were curbing the rights of journalists under the provisions of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of India and the right to know the conditions of residents of Kashmir Valley.

The petition says, “…information blackout set in motion is a direct and grave violation of the right of the people to know about the decisions that directly impact their lives and their future.”

The petitioner said that the absolute and complete internet and telecommunication shutdown, severe restrictions on mobility and sweeping curtailment on information sharing in the Kashmir valley, at a time when significant political and constitutional changes are being undertaken in Delhi to the status of J&K, is fuelling anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents of the Kashmir.

This petition has been filed as information blackout is a direct and grave violation of the right of the people to know about the decisions that directly impact their lives and their future. Also, the media cannot report on the aforesaid developments, and neither can the opinions of the residents of Kashmir be reported about.

The petition further points out that “No formal orders under which such action was taken was communicated by the Respondents and the power and authority, under which such excessive and arbitrary action was ordered is still unknown to the Petitioner. The communication blockade and strict restrictions on movement of journalists resulted in a virtual blackout, and media reporting and publishing grievously impacted.”

From August 4, 2019 onwards, mobile phone networks, internet services, and landline phone connectivity were all discontinued and shutdown, leaving Kashmir and some districts in Jammu completely isolated and cut off from all possible modes of communication and information. The communication blockade and strict restrictions on movement of journalists resulted in a virtual blackout, and media reporting and publishing is grievously impacted.

The petition says that due to this blockade, the petitioner, who is the executive editor of Kashmir Times could not publish or distribute the newspaper “which has a Jammu edition and a Srinagar edition. It is the largest circulated English daily in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, with daily circulation of upto 3.5 lakh copies”.

“Due to the severe and pervasive restrictions imposed by the Respondents, the Petitioner’s newspaper, Kashmir Times, Srinagar edition, could not be distributed and circulated on 05.08.2019. Since 06.08.2019 the Petitioner has not been able to print and publish the Kashmir edition, as the complete and absolute restrictions on all communication services and movement has resulted in the imposition of a de facto blockade on media activities, including reporting and publishing on the situation in Kashmir,” it says.

“In view of the absolute and debilitating curtailment of the right to report of the press and media, and the violation of the Petitioner’s right to practice her profession, the Petitioner is constrained to approach this Hon’ble Court under D Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking immediate and appropriate reliefs for safeguarding the rights available, inter-alia under Articles 14, 19(l)(a), 19(l)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India,” the petition further states.

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