Map Depicting Dispute Over Kashmir Leads to Network Ban in India

Adeel Shah
2015.04.24
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150424-IN-Kashmir-620 A televised message alerts viewers in India that its government has taken the Al Jazeera news channel off air, April 22, 2015.
AFP

People in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir are criticizing the central government’s five-day ban of Al Jazeera International for broadcasting a “wrong map” of the region.

The Qatar-based network has a huge viewership in Kashmir, where people see it as an alternate source of news.

“The Indian government needs to understand that Kashmir is a disputed region,” said Nazir Ahmad, 64, a retired professor from Srinagar and an avid viewer of the channel.

“Blocking the channel has brought an embarrassment to the Indian government, because the censorship has been reported by international media.”

“It has been shown very much correctly by the channel that Kashmir is not a part of India because it is a disputed territory,” separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, told BenarNews.

“It is censorship, and it only shows that the government of India wants to ensure that the  media organizations take a straight line.”

“This is very unfortunate, that Indian government have repeatedly taken action against those who have shown truth and the reality of Kashmir,” said Shabir Shah, another separatist leader.

Five-day ban

Viewers all over India who turned on the channel Wednesday were surprised to see a message saying it would be off air until Monday.

"As instructed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this channel will not be available from 00.01 hours on 22nd April till 00.01 hours on 27th April 2015," it said.

Sources said the decision to block the channel was taken by senior officials at the ministry after it came to notice that the network carried the erroneous map in some of its news reports.

“The order related to this was issued on April 10, and we have even mentioned the dates as well, when the channel broadcasted the wrong map of Jammu and Kashmir,” said a ministry official, who wished not to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

“During the programs, parts of Jammu and Kashmir were shown as part of Pakistan, which violated Rule 6 [1](h) of the program code.”

Map restriction policies

According to the Press Trust of India, Al Jazeera used a map during broadcasts in 2013 and 2014 that did not show “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” – a section of Kashmir claimed by Pakistan – and Aksai Chin – a border territory claimed by both India and China – as part of India.

The channel also did not show the Lakshadweep and Andaman islands in some of its maps, the PTI report said.

The maps were not in accordance with the Survey of India copyright map, the National Map policy of 2005 and map restriction policies issued by the Ministry of Defense, the report said.

Kashmir is a disputed region between India and Pakistan, and both nations control a part of it. In the 1990s an armed resistance broke out against Indian rule, which, according to human rights organizations, has claimed more than 50,000 lives.

‘Disproportionate’

In a statement, Al Jazeera said the ban “concerns maps of Pakistan shown on the channel which on occasions during 2013 and 2014 did not mark Pakistan-controlled Kashmir as separate territory. The maps … gave the same treatment to Indian-controlled Kashmir, though this was not subject to similar complaints.”

The network said it had changed the maps to address Indian concerns from Sept. 22, 2014.

“This ban is a disproportionate response to an issue that we fixed promptly after it was pointed out. It needlessly deprives Indian viewers of our global news and programs,” the statement quoted Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, as saying.

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