Two centuries before most of the countries were either autocracies or colonies. People in such countries have nothing in their access no rights no powers, they were not able to express, highlight their grievances and hardships they were facing under the various forms of governments including imperialism, colonialism, dictatorship and absolute monarchy. The voice of common people had no importance rather if anyone criticizes the ruling party, it was considered a criminal speech and was dealt with draconian laws to prune the people’s rights. Voices of common people were facing the worst form of repression, the idea of common people was hijacked down to earth by these tyrant autocrats and oppressors.
During the mid of 18th-century people became aware of human rights that encircles fundamental rights, basic rights and birthrights. In order to reach out to their rights and overpower tyranny and autocracy, people switch options to democracy.
The democratic system is a widely accepted system all over the world in this modern era. It is a democracy that enables people to have complete access to human rights irrespective of colour, caste, creed or sex, everyone relishes and enjoys the same rights may it be the freedom of expression, speech, information and other rights. Various articles give people assurance that their rights are preserved under the constitution.
Press in India and Kashmir
Press dates back in India during the British rule with the first newspaper in 1780 namely Bengal gazette by James Augustus Hickey. After that occupied Indians published their own newspapers and magazines to highlight the cause and illegal occupation by the British. The then Press made communication between different sects and religious communities to bring out how illegally was India occupied. The scenario thereafter followed was most of the Indian common language newspapers were banned. As earlier mentioned colonialism shears and suffocates the voice of common was done to the then India. India’s voice completely meets its end there in the expression of ideas and culmination of illegal occupation.
After the independence of India, the constitution was framed under various articles that mainly focuses on the freedom of common voice. The common people have a leading and major voice in the modern era too despite considering the world a global village which is press
Press is the bridge between the common people and the government. It represents the true aspirations and ambitions in the best form. The downtrodden society is being represented and highlighted to have its right by means of a press. It gives voice to the voiceless which brings the real meaning of democracy. Press is mostly used for public spheres in which political thought and expression can add a realm to the meaning of democracy. Democracy can be powerful but the true essence and efficiency of democracy exist only by the freedom of the Press. Presently in India press doesn’t have a height of toughing stars like other countries. Press doesn’t enjoy real freedom in India. It is still not able to have its true form despite India being the World’s largest democracy.
Article 19(1)(a) says that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. However this article does not clearly mention the freedom of the press as in US there is a separate article for the freedom of Press, this way the name press is manipulated to have a grip on it by various platforms, especially in Jammu and Kashmir with core target Kashmir where the press is still in a dormant stage.
Newspapers that try to highlight the true nature of Kashmir and the human rights violation are targeted and prey hunt came into force against that daily. During the 2016 turmoil triggered by the killing of Burhan Wani ( the Hizbul Commander), many newspapers face the worst. In August said, 2016 late Shujaat Bukhari‘s printing press, the then editor of Srinagar-based daily Rising Kashmir, was raided and banned for 3 days. In response, the government spokesman Nayeem Akhter said, “The step was taken to ensure peace”. A similar case enveloped the Kashmir Reader in October 2016 with accusations that the daily tends to incite acts of violence and disturbing the public peace and tranquillity, and was banned for almost 3 months.
The statement orders a ban on the printing and publishing of the newspaper “till further orders so that disturbance of public tranquillity is prevented” [Kashmir Reader]
The editors of these dailies were considered as the fringe and unscrupulous elements and attributed as peace assailants just because they highlight the ground realities and the human rights violation in Kashmir. Ever worst violation in 2016 was the use of pellet guns that left hundreds of people blinded reported UNHRC (Unites Nations Human Rights Council). India has adopted the same policy as the British’s during its occupation, of Kashmir
Ved Bhasin, popularly known as Grand Old Man of English Journalism laid the foundation of Kashmir Times with the objective to support peace, justice and human rights. Through his daily, he highlighted the Jammu massacre( 1947), Kashmir conflict, religious peace and harmony and like issues. This daily currently run by the editor Anuradha Bhasin was the true voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and was touching heights as she culminates the ground-based reality. However, this true voice in Kashmir also meets its boundaries and was snatched on 20, October 2020 when Estates Department seize its office in Press Colony Ln, Regal Chowk, Press Colony, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.
This attempt to restrict and curbing of the press in Kashmir has resulted in a cat and mouse game where editors and journalists are targeted like mousses. These editors and journalists are booked under draconian laws and many of them are lingering in jails for months. This intimidation and deliberate surveillance in the press have spawned a void in our hearts as more than one and half dozen journalists have been killed since 1989 in Kashmir.
In Press Freedom Index, India’s press freedom rank declined to 142 out of 180 countries published by RWB (Reporters Without Border).In 2019 country’s press freedom rank was 140 in the list of Press Freedom Index while in 2018 it was 138 and in 2017 it was 136.this consecutive decline in press freedom occurs due to the censorship of the press and cult of personality in India. The major contributes to the curtailing of press, media and internet lockdown in conflict-hit area, Kashmir
We are living in the modern era where people are highly educated and awaken about birthrights which give rise to the United Nations in the 20thcentury. Its main body UNHRC gives people a complete hand over their rights. Article 19 according to which, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” is a major backbone of press freedom
Voice to voiceless
- Article 19 must be implemented in its original form although it already exists in the constitution of India, but the dire need is its execution in Kashmir especially.
- The harassment and torture of editors and journalists and calling them to police custody to harass and questioning for hours should be ceased. Unless and until there is a free press there is no essence of true democracy. The draconian laws like PSA (Public Safety Act), UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) should be applied for criminals, not these true representation of voice, journalists and editors of newspapers in Kashmir.
According to a recent report on 20 October 2020, the International Press Institute and Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to drop all charges against journalists, including the ones who have been booked under draconian sedition laws for their work.
- New media and the internet can play a great role in a free press as it culminates the true form of biased and unbiased material. The general principles are at stake since inappropriate materials to confuse the general population such as fraud, conspiracy for terrorism, incitement to violence, hate speech, etc. is circulated on various forums to create chaos and confusion which restricts and hinders the existence of free press.
- To get the low rank in Press Freedom Index, India should adopt a wise policy, give information on an oxygen attribute for the free flow of ideas and expression especially in Kashmir. Since the culmination of ground reality is real freedom of the press.
- Censorship on the press in the name of peace and prosperity, daydreams should come to end in such a modern age to execute the true form of free press and democracy.
- Reporting of political parties, campaigns and frequent advertisements of the ruling party curtails the free flow of information and true nature of the unambiguous press. This restricts in reflecting the theme of optimism and perfection of freedom of the press