‘Restrictions on foreign media in J&K not new’

‘Restrictions on foreign media in J&K not new’

Letter reminds them of curbs imposed by 1958 guidelines

Rules for foreign journalists to travel to restricted areas are not new and they were reiterated most recently in December 2016, sources said on Sunday. The comment came following media reports that suggested that foreign correspondents were finding it difficult to visit Kashmir because of newly introduced “rules”.

A stern letter from the External Affairs Ministry on May 22 to all foreign media bureaus based in Delhi reminded them of restrictions imposed by the 1958 guidelines for travel of foreigners to parts or all of Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland and Andaman and Nicobar.

“It has come to the notice of MEA that some foreign journalists, while discharging their journalistic duties or for tourism purposes, have travelled to places that come under the restricted/protected areas that require prior permission/special permit,” said the letter, warning that they could face “access issues” as a result.

“These rules are not new and have been reiterated periodically,” said an official source.

However, foreign correspondents based in India and Indians working for non-Indian outlets say the regulations are new in practice, and they will lodge a protest with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

“This may have been on the books and never implemented, and our journalists have been travelling up and down from Srinagar without being restricted like this. We will argue this with government authorities and hope to sort it out,” said FCC president S. Venkatnarayan.

According to one journalist who travelled to the Kashmir Valley four times last year, requests to travel have now been pending with the External Affairs and Home Ministries for more than a month, which is making it difficult for them to plan coverage of the situation in the State. It is understood that the government has been particularly careful about permitting travel to Jammu and Kashmit after the publication of the UN’s Human Rights Council report in June, the first of its kind, that slammed India over alleged violations in J&K as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, advising India to remember its promises on “self-determination” to the population in Kashmir.

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