‘News gathering a difficult job in occupied Kashmir’ » Kashmir Media Service

Srinagar, August 23 (KMS): The Voice of America (VoA) has painted a very grim picture of occupied Kashmir, where people affiliated with media are facing severe hardships and difficulties in news gathering due to continued curfew and information blockade imposed by the Indian government.

The VoA in a report said that the trouble started on August 05 when Indian government took control of the territory after abrogating its special status by scraping Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Since then, newspapers of the territory either have not published at all or published in very small, limited editions.

Reporters working in occupied Kashmir are having trouble gaining entry to areas surrounded by Indian forces. Traditional landline telephones are disconnected. Mobile phone service and the internet are not working. Srinagar is Kashmir’s summer capital. Its streets are filled with barriers to restrict the movement of protestors.

Sonia Sarkar is a journalist based in New Delhi. She was among the reporters to receive Indian government permission to visit the territory. Sonia Sarkar said that she was able to get around much of Srinagar during her three-day trip last week. Yet, she said officers made it difficult to reach the areas where protests take place. “There is an attempt to create…fear…to prevent you going ahead,” she said. Sonia Sarkar was unable to get to Soura area of Srinagar. Some observers believe that it is becoming the unofficial headquarters of resistance.

The British Broadcasting Corporation and Al-Jazeera television reported a large protest in Soura on August 09. At first, the Indian government denied that there was a demonstration. Later, it said about 1,000 to 1,500 people attended the protest.

Indian officials have said that journalists are free to visit occupied Kashmir. Yet local Kashmiri reporters have a hard time gathering news, talking to people and filing reports.

The daily Kashmir Times was unable to publish for two weeks after India announced the change in Kashmir’s status. The newspaper’s leadership was unable to contact employees. “Until about two days ago, there was not a single communication from our staffers in Srinagar…there was a complete information vacuum,” said Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of The Kashmir Times. Bhasin is based in Jammu, the Hindu majority area outside the Kashmir Valley.

Some local reporters have said they sometimes act like local Kashmiris visiting patients in the hospitals to get past check posts. Also there are few people for reporters to question; most Kashmiris are staying inside buildings, and political leaders are in detention.

Sonia Sarkar said that she had to be very careful in getting video because the Indian forces would stop her. She also said Kashmiris were afraid to talk about the situation on camera. “This has never happened; in Kashmir everybody has always been very willing to talk. Now, they are extremely careful,” she maintained.

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