I am forwarding the email I have received from Mr. G.M. Kaloo, President of the J&K Press Association, whom you had met several months back at my request. I have been receiving several such emails from various persons stating that newspapers are not being allowed to be published/distributed in Kashmir, cell phones and internet services have been disabled, and other restrictions placed after the hanging of Afzal Guru.
My own thinking in the matter is this : no freedom can be absolute, and hence press freedom under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution can also not be absolute, but is subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest vide Article 19(2).
Kashmir has a law and order problem, and ordinarily it is the state government which is the best judge of the situation and the way to handle it. Hence we should ordinarily respect the decision of the state government. The state government may have thought that for some time there should be a restraint on press freedom, because while many newspapers are responsible, some are not, and may publish inflammatory material which may create a huge law and order problem by inciting people to violence. Hence for some time a restraint order may be justified.
However, if the restraint is continued too long it may become unreasonable and unjustified. After all, there has to be a limit to the time duration of the restraint order, and it cannot continue indefinitely. People have to be allowed to let off steam and express their grievances peacefully,otherwise their grievances will erupt violently. There is a proverb "Words break no bones".
I would therefore request that you consider the matter and discuss it with Mr. Kaloo and other respected and responsible journalists of J&K, and then pass appropriate orders.
You know that I hold you in respect, and I know of the difficult situation you are facing, and so I hope you will not mind my expressing my view, which I think to be in your interest.
Subodh Mukoo wrote:
Adab,Publication of news paper has been stopped by the government and thus people deprived of information about day to day developments in Kashmir Valley .G. H. KalooPresidentJammu Kashmir Press Association(JKPA)(Subodh K Mukoo)National Coordinator, JKPA
CM Omar Abdullah's Reply :
Dear Justice Katju,
With reference to your emails of today please find attached below my response which I hope you will take in to consideration while making any public statements regarding the media in Kashmir.
With reference to your e-mails, I fully share your concern regarding continuation of restrictions in the Kashmir Valley.
The facts are under:-
· The execution of Afzal Guru took place on Saturday (Feb 9). On Saturday night, some local newspapers like Kashmir Images and Kashmir Reader and a few local Urdu dailies did print and publish their newspapers.
· Circulation of these papers by the vendors was not possible as there were severe restrictions on any kind of movement in Srinagar city, in particular, and all over Kashmir valley at large.
· We have been given to understand that on Sunday newspapers have not printed their editions as restrictions were continuing in Kashmir valley and circulation of the same would not have been possible, even if they were to be printed.
· It may be mentioned that Jammu editions of the Kashmir based papers did get circulated.
· The Information Department has not issued any directive to the publishers by putting any restrictions.
· It is true that the internet facilities on GPRS enabled phones have suffered, but Broadband Desktop internet facilities are available and the newspapers are updating their editions online.
· With the Government proposing to ease restrictions in Kashmir valley as the situation improves, movement of vehicles would also be getting facilitated and we are sure that the media publications would also get circulated.
· The security/ law and order concerns and the restrictions in Kashmir Valley has well been appreciated by you and we acknowledge it with all humility.