Srinagar, July 18: The Jammu and Kashmir government has asked cable television operators in Srinagar, the state’s summer capital, to stop airing 30 channels broadcasting programmes based on news and religion. It said the move was necessary for the “maintenance of peace and tranquillity” in the region. Most of the channels are based in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
“It has become necessary and expedient in the larger interest of public and maintenance of peace and tranquility to prohibit you from transmitting non-permitted TV channels (which are not permitted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India),” Srinagar’s additional district magistrate said in an order passed on July 12 in response to a communication from the state’s home department. HT has a copy of the order.
The magistrate issued notices to cable networks SEN Digital Network and K9, quoting the department as saying that they were telecasting “unpermitted or banned” private satellite channels within the jurisdiction of the district.
A cable TV operator said on condition of anonymity that his network had been asked to close around 30 channels including Geo, ARY, QTV, Hadi TV, Karbala, Paigam, Peace TV Urdu, Noor, Sehar, Madani, Saudi Quran, Saudi Sunah and many other religious channels.
J&K has been under Governor’s Rule since June 20 following the resignation of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who quit after her People’s Democratic Party-led government lost the support of its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The cable networks have been warned of action if they don’t comply with the order.
“…In exercise of powers conferred by section 19 of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, you are hereby directed to immediately stop telecasting/transmitting non permitted TV channels/banned private satellite channels within period of three days for which a notarized affidavit be furnished to this office, failing which action as contemplating under the provisions of the act will be taken against you,” the order read.
Cable network operators have called an emergency meeting to discuss the repercussions of the order on their business. The cable operator quoted above questioned the logic of the order, wondering “how religious channels posed a threat to peace in Kashmir”
“The government’s order to close dozens of Pakistani channels including Islamic channels is not only undemocratic but autocratic. They are akin to putting curbs on the effectiveness of media,” moderate separatist leader and chief cleric of Jamia Majid, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said in a Twitter post.
This is not the first time that cable operators have been asked to refrain from running news or religious channels.
In May 2017, when Mehbooba Mufti was in power, the state home department had asked all deputy commissioners to take action against the transmission of 34 TV channels, including those from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, citing their potential to “incite violence and create law and order situation”.
During the 2010 summer unrest, the government, then led by Omar Abdullah, banned local cable channels from airing news and current affairs programmes in Kashmir.