WASHINGTON – Newly enforced media regulations that India says are to counter false news and incitement in Jammu and Kashmir will stifle government criticism and go against press freedom protections in the country’s constitution, critics say.
The Media Policy 2020, released last month, outlines powers for authorities to accredit Kashmiri journalists and news outlets, distribute government advertising and determine what constitutes false news or incitement.
The disputed region has been under tight control for nearly a year following clashes between residents and security forces when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed Kashmir’s semiautonomous status last August. Thousands were arrested, a curfew and internet blackout were imposed, and authorities detained several journalists for incitement or false news.
“For months [the government] denied us access to the internet and then provided us with 2G services, but those 2G services are also shut down at least once or twice a week under the pretext of militant encounters or COVID-19,” Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmiri political analyst and prominent human rights and international law scholar, told VOA. “The restrictions are already in place — they are just being legitimized.”
The policy — which applies specifically to Kashmir — gives the Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) power to monitor media outlets and journalists in Indian-controlled Kashmir for misinformation, fake news, plagiarism and anti-national activities.
The DIPR also will determine who is “empaneled,” or accredited, and will control allocations for government advertising.