‘Policy an assault on freedom of press’
Srinagar: National Conference and Peoples Conference on Wednesday took strong exception to the new media policy announced by the J&K government and termed it an assault on the freedom of speech and the role of press in democracy.
“Press is meant to agitate, investigate, scrutinize institutions and individuals, government and others. Freedom of press is what underlines the difference between democracy and despotism; it is the lifeblood of democracy,” said NC spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar.
“A watch-dog in the shape of the Press council of India and similar other bodies adjudicates, regulates press under the Press Council Act of 1978. The new media policy obliquely stifles the media’s right to ask tough questions and highlight lacunae in the working of administration.
“The policy seems to be a remnant of colonial era censorships. It was that colonial experience of the founding fathers of the country that made them realize the crucial significance of the freedom of press,” he added.
Having government to decide what “fake, unethical and antinational” is will jeopardize the free working of press, Dar said.
“Given the fact that the press fraternity in J&K is already working in harsh conditions, the new policy will choke the already constrained space for the free working of press,” he said.
Such anti-democratic gags will obstruct the dissemination of free and fair press, Dar said adding, “It is also an infringement of the people’s right to information”.
“It is gratuitous and unnecessary to come up with such rules and regulations, democracies are not supposed to fight opposing narratives by gagging its media. We denounce it in unequivocal terms.
“The regulations will fester unaccountability in administration and inevitably cause injustice. Therefore the policy should immediately be rolled back for the furtherance of democracy and freedom of speech and free working of press,” he added.
The People’s Conference also hit out at the Jammu and Kashmir administration over its new media policy, terming it the “lowest of the low”.
Earlier this month, the UT administration had approved the media policy-2020 for creating a sustained narrative on the functioning of the government in the media.
According to a government spokesman, the policy attempts to thwart misinformation, fake news and tries to develop a mechanism that will raise alarm against any attempt to use the media to vitiate public peace, sovereignty and integrity of the country.
People’s Conference spokesman Adnan Ashraf claimed that with the new media policy, India now joins the notorious club of the most repressive regimes of the world, in terms of freedom of expression.
“The new media policy is plain censorship where the government defines the ethics of journalism. (The) Government wants to see reality not as it exists but as it wants to see it exist. The policy gives them the power to decide what is fake and unethical. And no prizes for guessing, anything remotely true or critical of the government will be categorised as fake or anti-national news,” Ashraf said in a statement.
“The new media policy is a new low – a lowest of the low- which will herald the darkest era of curbing press freedom wherein the government will script custom made versions of reality,” he said.
Ashraf said it is a “sad day for democracy and freedom of expression”.
“In Kashmir, this law will be at its coercive best and will be utilised to further mute the muted. They are formally recognising what they have been doing informally. Who defines fake news, who is the faker, the publisher or the enforcer. Fake news per se is evil but faking a law to fake enforcement will go down as the cruellest fetter on press freedom and will be perpetually held in odium,” he added.