Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI – Kashmiri journalists working with online portals were barred from accessing the Media Facilitation Centre (MFC) in Srinagar, the only place where they can access internet amidst the valley wide digital siege, on Monday.
According to Aakash Hassan, the principal correspondent of News18.com Kashmir, the authorities at MFC at information Department Complex told the freelancer and reporters associated with news portals that they cannot use the facility. “I was asked to leave the center without citing any reason,” Hassan told Caravan Daily.
As he was leaving the Center, he sent out tweets informing that he has been barred from center.
I have been barred from the Media facilitation centre–the only place for journalists to access the internet at in #Kashmir. The officials of @diprjk told me that journalists working as freelancers or reporting for websites or monthly magazines are not allowed inside.
— Aakash Hassan (@Aakashhassan) November 11, 2019
It has come at a time when the center was already marred with internet fluctuations. Towards the end of last week, the internet at MFC was shut after snow broke the fiber that supplies internet to the center. On Friday, many journalists who work for outlets outside Kashmir could not file reports on the situation that arose due to untimely snowfall.
Journalists have been demanding that the authorities should restore internet connection to their offices so that they are able to work unhindered.
Journalists in Kashmir struggle to file stories and have accused government of coercion and humiliation. “This was the only spot where we could use internet to send in our stories and now they are denying us the access to it,” Hassan said, his voice filled with anger. “This is unfair.”
It is humiliating to literally beg for a few minutes of internet connectivity for ur cell-phones at govt run ‘media facilitation centre’ in #Srinagar. It has been 95 days since #Kashmir is without internet. End the blackout and let us breathe.
— Shams Irfan (@ShamsIrfan27) November 6, 2019
Kashmir is reeling under unprecedented communications lockdown since the 5th of August when Indian government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories. The people in valley have resented against the decisions. The communications lockdown has not only restricted the ability of general population to communicate but also impeded the flow of news from Kashmir.
In the initial week of lockdown, the journalists would smuggle out stories in flash drives. However, in mid-August, the administration set up a media facilitation center at a private hotel. Months later, it was shifted to the information department complex in Srinagar.
The aggrieved journalists complained that the administration are “seeking excuses”. Some reporter were asked to show by lines and prove that they work with newspapers. “This is clear intimidation,” a freelance video reporter said.
Earlier, Hassan had written a news article exposing how the right wing Bhartiya Janta Party’s local politicians were being allowed to use the internet at MFC to send statements.
Most of the top layer of leadership of Kashmir’s political parties including three former chief ministers are under detention. The state imposed a suppressive crackdown arresting thousands, many under Public Safety Act to thwart chances of protests against the decisions.