The Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday directed cable operators in Srinagar to stop airing five Indian news channels because they were causing “mental and physical harm to particular functionaries of government”.
The diktat enraged local cable operators who said the state government was creating “unnecessary trouble” as these channels had been licensed by the ministry of information and broadcasting and are “completely pro-India”.
District magistrate, Srinagar, Farooq Lone issued notices to three cable network operators – SEN Digital Network, JK Media Network Service and Take One Media – asking them to block programmes of five news channels. According to cable operators, these channels are based in India and broadcast special news bulletins on Jammu and Kashmir.
“…Some of the channels transmitted by the cable operators, viz: KBC, Gulistan TV, Munsif TV, JK Channel and Insaaf TV have started to telecast programmes which have potential of causing mental and physical harm to particular functionaries of government. Besides, these programmes have caused feeling of prejudice to the maintenance of harmony and public peace,” local news agency CNS quoted the order as saying.
The order further stated that these programmes had created a law and order problem in the Valley in general, and Srinagar in particular, as they promote “hatred, ill-will, disharmony and a feeling of enmity against the sovereignty of State”.
Operators violating the directive will face action under the provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation Act, 1995).
The ban comes at a time the state is limping back to normalcy after being on the boil since July 8 when Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces in an encounter. Considered a hero among some locals, Wani’s death sparked protests that led to 71 deaths and left hundreds injured.
The government struggled to control the situation, even blocking mobile internet since July 9. A curfew was imposed, which lasted for 51 days — the longest continuous curfew in the Valley ever.
The ban on the channels is also the second media clamp down since unrest set in. The first was a five-day gag on news publications in July when violence in the Valley first escalated.
Claiming the government was “going to the extreme”, Amjad Noor, one of the partners of SEN Digital Network, said the latest ban was “putting tremendous strain on the cable operators”, and was a flawed concept in times of dish TV.
“They forced us to stop local channels in 2010. A month and half ago they asked us to block Pakistan-based channels… but people still are watching them through dish TV. So when we stop airing these channels, the people will opt for dish TV to watch these channels. The government ban will do nothing except affect the business of cable operators,” he said.
Claiming that the Indian satellite channels being banned were licensed by the ministry of information and broadcasting, Noor said these channels broadcast half an hour special programmes on Kashmir.
“For rest of the day these channels broadcast programmes which say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and for the half an hour Kashmir special what can they show except situation on ground in the Valley,” he said.