Foreign media not allowed to cover PM’s Kashmir rally

Top news agencies denied passes to cover the event.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
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Journalists from foreign media outlets were not allowed to cover Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Srinagar on Thursday, sources in the government and media told Newslaundry. This was Modi’s first visit to the Union territory after Article 370 – which accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir – was de-operationalised on August 5, 2019.

The Department of Information and Public Relations had received 160 applications from journalists for passes to cover the event, a week before the rally, and 127 of these were approved, Newslaundry learnt. Among those who were denied passes were news agencies such as AP, AFP and Russian news agency Sputnik. 

“After receiving the applications, DIPR shared the details with the police department [CID] for verification. They cleared 127 names of the total 160. No foreign media outlet has been given the passes,” said a source in the J&K administration. 

J&K DIPR director Jatin Kishore could not confirm if any foreign media outlet was denied access. “I don’t think this is correct that foreign media was not allowed. The list we received was from PIB.”

PIB director general Manish Desai, however, said the PIB (Delhi headquarters) was not involved in the preparation of the list. “The local media is handled by the state concerned.”

Journalists claimed passes for events involving the PM in states or union territories are issued by DIPR.

‘Blanket ban on foreign media’ 

Modi on Thursday addressed a public programme, ‘Viksit Bharat, Viksit Jammu and Kashmir’, at Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar and launched agriculture and tourism projects worth Rs 6,400 crore. In his address, Modi said Jammu and Kashmir has been “breathing freely” after the removal of Article 370.

Foreign nationals working as journalists have to apply for permission eight weeks ahead of their visits to restricted or protected areas, including J&K and the Northeast. For Indian nationals working for the foreign press, no such restriction applies.

However, for the Modi event, Indian nationals working for the foreign press were denied entry.

“For all these events, DIPR seeks details of accredited journalists. The same thing happened this time. But they gave passes to all except those working for foreign media outlets,” said a journalist whose application was declined.

A senior journalist from a foreign media outlet said they were told that the foreign media was not allowed. “We spoke with the J&K administration and were told that no foreign media is given access to the event. So there is a blanket ban on the foreign media,” they said.

They said that the development was not surprising. “We don’t have access to anything that happens in Kashmir. It is not something which is unexpected...As a foreign media, you learn to live with such denials,” they said.

Kishore of J&K DIPR denied a blanket ban on Indians in the foreign press but did not share the names of journalists who were allowed.

‘Pretty obvious why I didn’t apply’

A day before the event, a few journalists went to the DIPR office to collect their passes. “Those working for foreign media were also present and told that they are not allowed,” another local journalist privy to the issue said.

The last time foreign nationals working as journalists were allowed to visit Srinagar was a G20 meeting last year, said sources. It’s become rare for foreign journalists to cover J&K since 2019 due to denial of access. 

Newslaundry spoke with a few of them who have not applied for permission. “It’s pretty obvious why I have not applied. We need to inform the Ministry of External Affairs eight weeks in advance before travelling to areas like J&K, Ladakh and the Northeast,” said a foreign journalist.   

On Wednesday, addressing a rally in Telangana, Modi said there was inadequate media coverage about his public service.

Modi has not addressed a press conference since he assumed charge as PM. During the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, he attended a press conference but did not field any questions.

In the latest press freedom index, India slumped by another 11 places to the 161st position.

With inputs from Pratyush Deep.

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