News portals missing as 153 websites white-listed for access in J&K

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GR News Desk | Srinagar

The Jammu and Kashmir government said that it would allow 2G postpaid mobile users to access “white-listed” websites as the administration released a list of 153 such platforms.

This direction came into effect on January 18 and shall remain in force until January 24.

Divided into 10 sections, the list of white-listed websites include four email services, including Gmail and Outlook, 15 banking websites, including RBI and J&K Bank, 38 educational websites including Unacademy, Byju’s and Wikipedia, 11 entertainment websites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar and 42 utilities websites including Paytm, Zomato, Jio Chat, Amazon and Flipkart.

ALSO READ: Digital lockdown: The untold story of Kashmir’s longest internet shutdown

The list also includes 20 travel websites and 13 service websites along with the website of the passport office and income tax.

However, the order has categorised moneycontrol.com as a banking website, and not as a business news portal. Similarly, a few news channels can be streamed via Airtel TV and Sony Liv.

The previous order had allowed 2G internet services on postpaid mobiles in the districts of Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur, and Reasi. This new order further extended the service to all 10 districts of the Jammu division and two districts of Kashmir Valley including Kupwara and Bandipora. Also, It categorically said that mobile internet services in other districts of Kashmir will remain suspended.

Verify prepaid mobile users

The new order also states that verification of users of prepaid mobile phones — in line with norms applicable for postpaid mobile connections — will have to be carried out by telecom service providers, since voice and SMS services have been restored on prepaid connections in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

Jio Chat white-listed despite allowing for peer-to-peer communication: Another important thing to note is that the earlier order had said that social media platforms, including those that allow for peer-to-peer communication, will not be white-listed.

However, access to Jio Chat — which provides a peer-to-peer encrypted chat functionality along with a video calling feature similar to WhatsApp — has been allowed. Also, Jio Chat has been mentioned without a URL.

This phased access to the internet continues even though the Supreme Court, on January 10, declared that the right to the internet is also part of freedom of speech and expression and an indefinite ban on the internet is an abuse of power. The court ordered the Jammu & Kashmir administration to review all restrictive orders within seven days and put out all restrictive orders since August last year so that they can be challenged in a court of law. It also said that suspending the internet should be reviewed hereon, and such suspension could only be for a limited time period and is subject to judicial scrutiny.

Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Jammu and Kashmir has been directed to ensure the implementation of the government’s directions.

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