No Mainstream News for Kashmir: Residents to only Access 153 Approved Websites

Entertainment, banking websites have been included, while no mainstream news website finds place among 153 Whitelisted websites that can be accessed in Kashmir

While internet and mobile communication has been reinstalled in some parts of the Valley with severe restrictions, residents are only allowed to make use of some 153 odd websites that have got the approval of the government. The government has come up with a whitelist of websites which alone can be accessed from the Valley. This Whitelist of websites was first announced on January 14, when internet service providers were ordered to install all the necessary firewalls, this list has now however become public.

The Whitelisted websites are divided into various categories such as mail(Gmail and Yahoo),banking(major banks),education, employment, entertainment ,services, travel, utilities, weather, webs services and automobiles. If one looks at the categories into which these websites have been divided what one is bound to notice is the fact that almost all major requirements are taken into consideration except for the most vital need for information on national and world affairs, i.e. news. The absence of a news website which is dedicated to the cause of delivering authenticated and impartial news to the citizens living in the Valley is a conspicuous matter. This development is concerning because traditional media has also been facing issues in freely disseminating news in the union territory ever since the abrogation of Article 370 and the division of the erstwhile state into union territories. While Hotstar which does have access to certain news channels and Reliance Industries owned which primarily published business associated news are on the list, what one must acknowledge is the fact that these are not platforms which are solely dedicated to mainstream news.

Moreover, social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have also been kept away from people’s access in the Valley. In total, the government has only approved four email based services, 15 banking websites, three employment associated websites and over 35 websites from educational institutions.  The websites meant for entertainment included in the Whitelist of websites include Netflix, AmazonPrime and Hotstar, while government run websites like income tax e-filling, passport and UIDAI can also be accessed by the users. 

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