Govt partially bans Facebook, YouTube in Kashmir

Govt partially bans Facebook, YouTube in Kashmir
After SMS, more restrictions on freedom of expression
SRINAGAR, Oct. 01: Amidst the President’s call to Kashmir’s youth for belief in the Indian democracy, the government has partially blocked popular social-networking site, Facebook, and YouTube in Jammu and Kashmir.
The sine die ban was imposed on Thursday—the day President made an inspiring speech during the convocation at Kashmir University—and ever since the cell phone and PC users in the state have not been able to access the sites. It followed the daylong communication gag witnessed in Kashmir on September 21 in wake of the expected mass protests against the anti-Islam film.

Much like the way SMS service was banned in the state in 2008, the ban has been imposed without any declaration by the government. When Kashmir Times asked the minister for law and parliamentary affairs, Ali Muhammad Sagar, he feigned ignorance about the communication gag.
“I hear it from you only…,” he answered, and sought time to confirm the details.
And later, when he was contacted again, he seemed to avoid the answer.
“I am not able to connect to the home commissioner. When I get to talk to him, I will contact you…,” Sagar, one of the veterans in ruling National Conference, said.
The internet service providers like Airtel and Tata DOCOMO, however, cleared the uncertainties created by the government’s silence over the matter.
When the ‘customer care’ of the Airtel—the leading cellular service provider in the state—was contacted, they said: “You will not be able to access Facebook and YouTube because the sites have been banned in Jammu and Kashmir. The services will be restore only after the ban is lifted, but we cannot be sure when that happens.”
And a similar response came from the Tata DOCOMO—the mobile internet service providers in the state.
“It is due to the ban imposed on Facebook and YouTube…We are sorry, but the sites are barred till further orders,” they said.
Given that the SMS and MMS services are already barred within the boundaries of the state, the latest dictate would leave people without any option for free expression. Off late, netizens have been using Facebook to criticize and comment on the government policies and politics. Many separatists too have created Facebook accounts and pages to reach out to the
In fact, the government in 2009 and 2010 booked several youths for uploading on Facebook the “inflammatory content”. Those facing FIRs included famous BBC announcer, Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor, and Mirwaiz South Kashmir, Qazi Yasir. So far this year around a dozen students were taken into custody and questioned for operating certain Facebook pages, which were later blocked.
The videos of protests and human rights violations have been finding way to YouTube during the recent years, and the government has been keen to act against the ‘offenders’. In 2010, for instance, a case was filed against a youth from south Kashmir for having uploaded a video about the killing of three youths by police.
The move has clearly annoyed the Facebook users. A cross section of people that spoke with this newspaper was of the opinion that government was, in the name of security, making life difficult for public and preventing the freedom of expression.
First SMS and now Facebook…One day the government may ask us not to breathe. This is the worst that can happen. We are being pushed towards the stone-age,” Adil Ahmad, a Netizen, said.
Many are criticising the ‘partiality’ in the policies of the state.
“The CM himself has been using Twitter (micro-blogging site). If he is allowed to use it what right do they have to ban Facebook for us (common users)…It seems this government is more dictatorial and less democratic,” commented a higher secondary lecturer, scared of speaking out his name.

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