Watch the interview by clicking on this link – Interview Anuradha Bhasin
In the first episode of live interview Aditya Anil Variath (Senior Editor), speaks with Ms Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor Kashmir Times about the issue of Internet ban in Kashmir and the Right to the Internet.
The interview started with the Journey of Ms Anuradha Bhasin concerning the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, filed against the indefinite suspension of internet services in the Kashmir valley. She recounted in her experiences that when the petition was filed in the supreme court, Kashmir was facing an unprecedented freeze of rights and intimidation from state and non- state actors. there was a blanket ban on communication including Internet services, landline, and mobile services, etc. She pointed out that as a journalist she holds the responsibility to hunt for counter-narratives and in the light of the same she filed the petition.
Further, the significance of the judgment can be traced from the court’s opinion regarding the importance of fundamental rights and they are inviolable. The state cannot impose prolonged restrictions on internet services as it is also a part of the fundamental right under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Though the Judgement was of prime importance, the ambiguity arose regarding the delay of five consecutive months in delivering the judgment, which is to an extent delayed justice.
She further speculated that the fundamental rights have become temporary and the restrictions have become permanent. It might have become the public policy of the government to treat Kashmir as an experimental lab of rest of the India. The Media policy recently introduced by the government in the valley is an example of the same. The government is trying to censor the right to information of the people by empowering the information department officials to curtail the content on social media. Such policies were followed by several alleged criminal cases against various? journalists on frivolous grounds, which curtailed the civil liberalities of the journalists and the people of the valley.
Concerning the economic, psychological, and sociological impact of the suspension of internet services, the business associations have suffered losses in crores. Indefinite people including journalists have lost their jobs with no communication facilities. The pilgrimage and the tourism sector have been affected severely after these restrictions became the new normal in the valley. The psychological impact has been seen in all the classes of the population. Journalists, the businessmen suffered the fear of speaking out loud and clear about the losses and the deteriorating situation in the valley.
India is a participatory democracy, where people are afforded the opportunity to participate. Due to such instances like the abrogation of article 370 and the further war-like situation in the state, the government has been losing public confidence. The government should have opted for the principle of minimal curtailment of fundamental rights, even if the policy is concerned with the public interest. Gearing up cybersecurity could also be a suggestion which the government should take into consideration.
Taking about the impact of the ban on journalism, she stated that there has been the strategic curtailment of the right to information by choking the finances of the local media. Due to high censorship by the government, the rural media is facing backlash which is eventually hampering the content.
In the concluding remarks, she aspired for the improvement in the field of journalism the situation of the valley by relying on the young generation.
Prepared by Ananya Bhargava.