India: IJU dismayed over J&K 4G ban issues13 Jul, 2020
The Indian Journalists Union is deeply dismayed over J&K administration extending the restrictions on internet speed (4G) till 29th July and the Union Home Ministry’s non-compliance of Supreme Court orders to constitute a ‘Special Committee’ to review these restrictions. At the same time, the IJU hopes the apex court would list a contempt petition filed against non-compliance of its orders at its earliest convenience.
On Wednesday last, the J&K Home Secretary sought to justify continuation of restrictions on high speed internet stating “high-speed net was likely to be used for uploading/downloading/circulation of provocative content on the social media” and would aid in recruitment of “gullible youth into the terrorist ranks”, amongst other things. It also claimed that 2G speed had not impeded the government’s efforts in COVID-19 control, education and business activities.
Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry and J&K administration have chosen to remain silent on SC order of May 17, wherein it had directed constitution of a “Special Committee” headed by Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs, with Secretary, Deptt of Telecom and J&K Chief Secretary to “look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions” in J&K. This was in response to a petition by Foundation of Media Professionals seeking restoration of 4G speed internet services, in the backdrop of the pandemic. The FMP, according to Livelaw, has filed a contempt petition on June 9, stating that despite court’s directions, no such Committee seems to have been constituted, and no order published by it, reviewing J&K Administration’s orders.
In a statement, IJU President and former Member, Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and IFJ Vice President Sabina Inderjit said the J&K administration’s reasoning of not extending 4G services is untenable and reveals its intent on clamping down on freedoms in a digital society. It has also recently announced a new media policy which is draconian, giving the administration powers to decide what’s ‘fake’, ‘unethical’ or ‘anti-national’ news and a means to silence criticism. The IJU urged the Union Home Ministry to set up the “special committee” without any further delay and put a stop to decisions being taken on an ad hoc basis.