Editorial: Trampling the public voice

Freedom of speech always comes under the pressure of the rulers. In conflict places like Kashmir, being one of the world’s long standing conflict, restrictions on mediums of communication are a daily exercise. In 2008, when the Amarnath Land Row started in summer there were number of local cable television news channels in Valley. Channels like Vaadi TV, Sen Tv, 9 TV were known for their daily reporting of the events. State didn’t like such coverage by these channels and they ordered them to stop telecasting news for longer durations first and later they banned them completely.

Many news anchors were threatened too by unidentified callers. They were told that they are provoking the masses. This has been going on since streets of Kashmir get filled with sea of people during mass protests. Choking the information before it reaches to general public is not only against the “democracy” but also against ones right to live. People are discriminated to know what happens around them and they are fed with a preferred version of facts.

The wrath of administration was not faced by only television channels but also by others who would use other means of disseminating information.  Mobile phone users of the state have now forgotten that there used to be a service called Short Message Service (SMS). This was banned by the state government, citing reasons that it helps separatists to spread rumours and provoke people. It has been two years since the ban was imposed. Only post-paid users are able to use the service. Though, there was re-verification of the prepaid users but ban was not revoked.

Not only has this, using social media in Kashmir has become a risk too. There people detained for using Facebook. They were told not to post anything which provokes people. What is provocation?

A boy is killed in a locality and someone posts the news on an online medium. This is a provocation? What happened to “freedom of speech” or is that service not available in Kashmir?

There are sophisticated tactics used in the valley to suppress the masses. Gagging media, banning SMS and cable television channels, arresting and tracking social media users, checking lyrics of revolutionary singers (which are a few) are some of the measures which state uses to suppress the populace and the sentiment of Kashmir.

Such an inhuman and undemocratic way of rule by government should end now. People should be given the right of freedom of expression. In Kashmir truth has been a tragedy and victim too.


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