New Delhi: With the four-day gag on newspapers in Kashmir Valley coming under criticism, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Thursday said the centre could not intervene when a state government imposed curbs on media.
"Freedom of expression is a constitutional right. It is the responsibility of the central and state governments to protect this right. However, states have the exclusive powers to maintain law and order. The question plays out within these two remits, and it is difficult territory," Manish Tewari said, interacting with women journalists at the Indian Women`s Press Corps (IWPC) here.
"In states affected with insurgency, left wing extremism, or separatist movements, there is a law and order problem. The state government has to decide on imposing restrictions, how far can the centre step in? The states have to handle the situation on the ground," he said.
He, however, added that self-regulation by the media could prove a way out.
"Growing up in Punjab when insurgency was at its peak, I did not see any restrictions on newspapers. There were no television channels then, but newspapers followed some self-restraint," Tewari said.
Newspapers in Kashmir Valley remained shut for four days after parliament attack convict Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi Feb 9. Newspapers in the Valley resumed operations Wednesday.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had asserted, however, that the state government had not imposed any curbs on newspapers. He had tweeted that the authorities had imposed curbs on the Internet to prevent rumours from spreading, but newspapers were allowed to print news and circulate copies freely.
Omar Abdullah said that some newspapers, however, chose not to print copies for a few days as curfew conditions had made it hard to deliver the papers.