New Delhi: The Editors Guild of India expressed deep concern on Saturday over the continued shutdown in communication links with the Kashmir Valley and the consequent "curtailment of the media's freedom and ability" to report fairly on the developments there.
The guild's statement came days after the government revoked the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir to withdraw the special status given to the state and bifurcated it into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The guild said while some visiting journalists might be able to file their reports once they were out of the Valley, the lockdown was almost "total and draconian" for the vibrant local media organisations that were the first eyes and ears on the ground.
The government knew very well that it was impossible to process and publish news now without the internet, it said. The government owed it to the people of the country, including those in Jammu and Kashmir, to allow the press, a vital institution of democracy, to function freely, the guild said.
It added that it was deeply concerned over the continued shutdown in communication links with the Kashmir Valley and the consequent "curtailment of the media's freedom and ability" to report fairly and accurately on current developments.
In a situation such as that prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir at present, the role of a free media, unhindered by such restrictions, becomes critically important in helping in dissemination of news and in its democratic duty of keeping a watch on institutions of the government and security, the guild said. "The Guild underlines the imprudence in creating an unfair distinction in the treatment: for access, curfew passes, communication between local journalists and those coming in to report from outside.
All journalists and all Indian citizens are entitled to equal freedom," the statement said. The guild urged the government to take immediate steps to restore normalcy for the media's communication links. Media transparency had always been and should be India's strength, not fear, it said. The guild also expressed its appreciation for and solidarity to all journalists reporting from the ground despite unprecedented challenges. "The Guild requests all, especially the government, to ensure their safety and freedom of movement," the statement said.