The "Ghost websites" of the Valley’s press
Since August 5, the journalist fraternity in Kashmir has been put through the mill. Reporters are allegedly being monitored, harassed and humiliated. Many journalists have allegedly been thrashed and some of them detained for hours by the forces.
"Will fight attempts to abrogate 35 A, 370 with all might : NC".
The report tagged as "Latest News" with August 4 dateline is among the few stories available on the home page of a prominent Valley based English newspapers, Rising Kashmir. Since then, the website of the publication has not been updated.
The long-drawn-out internet shutdown in Kashmir has turned the live webpages of newspapers into ‘ghost sites’.
"Due to internet blockade, we are unable to update our online edition. A government-run media centre housing barely 10 computers is the only place where journalists get brief access to internet", says Hafiz Ayaz, Editor-in-Chief of Rising Kashmir, adding that it needs seamless internet connectivity to update a website.
Apart from Rising Kashmir, the websites of other leading publications in the Valley, including Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Uzma and Srinagar Times, have not been up to speed since August 5, when the BJP government stripped the state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special constitutional position.
Although only a few small publications have begun updating their web editions some weeks back, they too are not able to provide up-to-the-minute news.
A journalist at a widely read weekly English magazine, Kashmir Life, says that the paper had begun partially updating its online edition from October 1. "We update the website from the government run media centre, but we don't manage it always", he said, adding that it is just an "arrangement".
Another journalist claims that no publication in the Valley since the August 5 clamp down had been able to run its web edition normally.
Akeel Rashid, a young news editor with Kashmir Images, says that his publication had been uploading the e-paper only since last month. "During our brief access to internet, we are only able to upload the e-paper", said Rashid.
After the clamp down of August 5, news papers in Kashmir could not bring out even their print editions at least for a week.
It was only on August 11 that a few newspapers--both Urdu and English--hit the stands. However, their circulation was largely restricted to the city of Srinagar.
On October 3, many valley based scribes and journalist bodies held a silent sit-in protest at the Press club of Srinagar against the consistent communication blockade in Kashmir. At least 11 editors’ and reporters' groups took part in the protest. The protesters later marched towards the Press enclave, the Fleet Street of Srinagar.
A journalist who participated in the protest told Asiaville that journalists had been facing a host of problems on daily basis over the past two months. Since August 5, the journalist fraternity in Kashmir has been put through the mill. Reporters are allegedly being monitored, harassed and humiliated. Many journalists have allegedly been thrashed and some of them detained for hours by the forces.
Irfan Amin Malik, a young journalist who works with Greater Kashmir was picked up by the forces during an overnight swoop down on his residence in Tral, some 36 kms south of Srinagar. Malik was released after he signed a bond at a local police station.
Many reporters who worked from different districts for various local newspapers have either lost their jobs or been asked to proceed on "leave without salary". as they were unable to work without internet connectivity.
"My organisation laid me off as I was not able to file any stories from my area for almost 85 days due to the internet shutdown", says a journalist who used to work for an English publication from Kulgam district.
A senior government official, who declined to be quoted in this report, said that it would still take some more time to restore the internet service in Valley Since the Modi government's drastic move, cellular internet also remains blocked in the Jammu division .However, broad band in the area was restored on August 12.