HC Seeks Govt’s Response On Mushroom Growth Of News Portals

J&K High Court | File Photo

Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh has sought response from the government over the mushroom growth of news agencies on social media especially the news portals which are involved in “circulating fake news”.

The court of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar while hearing public interest litigation on the matter directed the respondents to file response specifically pointing out to provisions of law under such news portals if at all are required to be registered or licensed.

“And if so, whether the news portals are running with due permission in accordance with law and whether any agency is examining the contents of the news circulated by these news portals,” Court recorded.

The litigation filed through Counsel Shafkat Nazir by Jammu and Kashmir People’s Forum-a non-governmental organization which works for the public cause submitted before court that there is a mushrooming growth of news agencies on social media especially the news portals which are involved in circulating fake news.

Advocate Nazir told Kashmir Observer that a registered media house always does their job with utmost responsibility because they know they will have to answer for any wrongdoing.

“However, these portals aren’t registered anywhere and aren’t answerable to anyone, those with no ethics and morality have given a bad name to journalism,” he told Kashmir Observer.

While pointing to the few incidents in which some “Facebook Journalist” showed the height of unprofessionalism, he said “Everyone know what happened in Chest Disease, hospital or in Kupwara, were a alleged doctor was dragged out in the market or when a video of the dead body of four-year-old girl who was mauled to death by leopard went viral on social media. So we filed this PIL to regulate them,” Advocate Nazir told Kashmir Observer.

Adding that they have appealed to the competent authorities to make them accountable “like they do with registered newspapers”.

It was alleged that in the region, several such news portals like Kashmir News, Kashmir Voice, Kashmir Breaking News, News Kashmir 24/7, Kashmir Business Hub and Bol Kashmir etc are operating freely without any registration or license from any authority and these news portals are not under supervision and control of any authority whatsoever.

The petitioner organization stated that on one hand people across the valley have been severely disturbed by the pandemic while on the other hand, fake journalists running Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter pages have become a new virus that has spread everywhere in Kashmir.

“The human dignity is at the cost because of these portals. So we want the Govt to regulate them. We aren’t against any Facebook page,” Syed Nasarullah Shah, Chairman of the NGO told Kashmir Observer.

It was submitted that the pseudo journalists are carrying mics and mobile phones in their hands and harassing the employees whether government or private.

“Some people walk around government offices carrying mobile phones, mics in their hands and keep asking various nonsensical questions to the officials of various government offices,” petitioner says.

It was submitted that there are multiple news agencies and whatsapp / facebook/ YouTube news channels and other electronic news agencies operating in both the regions which are actively engaged in the transmission of various types of news bulletins and reports. It is also known fact that every person with a hanging camera and holding a mic poses himself as a journalist irrespective of the fact whether s/he is authorized and

The PIL noted, that in the absence of any permission having been granted by the competent authority for running a news portal it is sufficient to infer that there is no proper, legal and regulatory mechanism in place at present with the result a state of confusion prevails on the subject as to the genuineness of any news transmitted by such channels/ portals.

“The Facebook and WhatsApp journalists have now moved a step ahead by blackmailing the government as well as private officials, civil contractors etc. on a daily basis. Such pseudo- journalists not only reveal the names of juvenile offenders/victims but in one instance they revealed the names of some girls allegedly caught as a part of sex racket in Srinagar,” the PIL noted.

The petitioner noted that, last year some persons holding camera and a mike publically humiliated a person posing himself a doctor in North Kashmir’s Kupwara and the accused person and virtually made him to take a round in the market, thus disrespected and humiliating him while ignoring all norms of human dignity and respect.

“The episode became a subject matter of debate on social media for several days engaging the attention of the public at large with serious condemnation,” the PIL noted.

It was pointed out that real professional journalists from major newspapers, news channels and news agencies follow a strict code of ethics but fake journalist bunkers continue to harass officials to create viral videos and sensational news stories.

It was further submitted that such steps also tend to tarnish the image of real journalists and media persons and therefore such vagrants need to be discouraged.

The court while hearing the averments observed that the issue needs attention from authorities and a reply in this regard be filed within one month. Court listed the case for next hearing on 1 September.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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