Media Gag to Continue, Kashmir Journalists Protest
NEW DELHI: The panicky response of a government unable to control the situation was its rather absurd attempt to gag the media by seizing print editions in this age of the internet. Most of the newspapers have moved online, with their reports available to the world if not to all in Kashmir who are currently under severe clampdown with all communication services disrupted.
Below are two reports from Greater Kashmir and Rising Kashmir on the information blackout:
In an unprecedented move, the clueless PDP-BJP government has now enforced information blackout across Kashmir by raiding newspaper offices in bid to threaten them to suspend their publications and also banning the Cable TV in Valley areas—the moves which have evoked severe criticism from the stakeholders.
On Friday midnight, after the death toll of civilians killed by forces touched 40, police raided the corporate office of Greater Kashmir—in first raid of its kind—and seized not only printed copies of Kashmir Uzma, but arrested three employees at the Printing Press as well.
More than 50,000 copies of Kashmir Uzma were seized by the cops who also misbehaved with the staff after threatening them with dire consequences.
According to reports, other newspaper printing presses were also raided, leading to forced suspension of newspapers’ publication.
On Saturday, owners and editors of several Kashmir-based newspapers held a sit-in at Press Enclave here, condemning in strong words what they called the imposition of “Press Emergency.”
Holding placards, the participant editors, reporters said: “An emergency meeting of Kashmir-based newspaper editors/owners was held on Saturday afternoon in which the situation arising out of the police raids on all the printing presses was discussed threadbare”
They strongly condemned the action of the government which has resulted in breakdown of circulation of newspapers.
The participants termed it as an attack on freedom of press and vowed to “fight it back at all costs”.
A joint statement from editors/owners later said: “A government spokesperson when contacted during the meeting conveyed that ‘in view of apprehensions of serious trouble in Kashmir Valley in next three days aimed at subverting peace, strict curfew will be imposed and movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers will not be possible’.”
Taking the government’s statement into consideration, the meeting felt that it is not possible to publish the newspapers in such a situation, the statement read.
The editors apologized to the readers for the breakdown of newspaper publications which is beyond their control.
The meeting strongly condemned the formal ban, saying “it is not only reprehensible but also against the norms of a democratic set up.”
The editors assured the readers that as soon as the government lifts the “press emergency”, “we will resume our publications”.
Hawkers in Lal Chowk here alleged that the police did not allow them to distribute the newspapers and seized their copies.
Meanwhile, authorities have also banned cable TV in several areas of Kashmir.
The mobile phone service was banned from Thursday evening itself, while the mobile internet was banned from Friday evening (July 8).
Clamping down on Kashmir Press, the government Saturday raided printing presses, detained their staffers and seized copies of all major newspapers.
A police party from Budgam Police raided the Rising Kashmir Press at Sheikhpora, Budgam and seized copies of the English daily, Rising Kashmir, Urdu daily, Buland Kashmir and Kashmir daily Sangarmaal early Saturday morning.
As the staff had left after printing the copies, Police detained all the employees of Rising Kashmir Printing Press including the foreman, Muhammad Yousuf.
The Police team later reached the Press Enclave and seized the vehicle carrying all the copies of Rising Kashmir and detained Rising Kashmir driver, Irshad Khan.
“They caught hold of me at the Press Enclave and asked to follow them to the police station,” Irshad said.
The entire staff of Rising Kashmir Printing Press was later detained at Humhama Police Post while all the copies of the newspaper were seized.
They were released only after being harassed and intimidated.
Police also seized copies of ‘Greater Kashmir’ and ‘Kashmir Uzma’.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Printer and Publisher of Greater Kashmir, Rashid Makhdoomi said the employees of the Greater Kashmir Printing Press had finished printing of Kashmiri Uzma, their Urdu newspaper and printing of around 10,000 copies of GK and snatched mobile phones of its staff, stopped machines, removed the printing plates and stopped printing of the newspaper.
Makhdoomi said Police took the load carrier carrying the newspaper copies of both Kashmir Uzma and Greater Kashmir.
“They did not even spare the wasted copies of the newspaper,” he said.
Makhdoomi said Police arrested the Greater Kashmir Printing Press foreman, Biju Chaudhary, machine man, Raju Nepali and load carrier driver Farooq Ahmad.
“They were detained at Humhama Police Station for the night and released at 5 am while all the copies of Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Uzma were seized,” he said.
According to Kashmir Times, over 20 policeman raided its Printing Press at Rangreth in Srinagar outskirts at midnight and arrested its foreman Fayaz Ahmed and 10 other employees.
“The Policemen seized the metallic printing plates of Kashmir Times and printed copies of the newspaper and closed down the KT Press Pvt Ltd Printing Press,” the newspaper said. “The Policemen misbehaved with the employees present there and snatched their cell phones and the employees who tried to resist were beaten up by the policemen.”
Police also seized the newspaper copies of other newspapers published from Srinagar.
Meanwhile, to protest against the crackdown on Kashmir Press, an emergency meeting of Kashmir-based newspaper editors, printers and publishers, was held Saturday afternoon at Press Colony in which the situation arising from the police raids on all the printing presses was discussed threadbare.
A statement of the newspaper editors, printers and publishers of Kashmir issued here said they strongly condemned the government action.
The participants termed it as an attack on the freedom of press and vowed to fight it back at all costs, the statement said.
It said that when they contacted a government spokesperson during the meeting, he conveyed to them that “in view of apprehensions of serious trouble in Kashmir valley in next three days aimed at subverting peace, strict curfew will be imposed and movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers will not be possible.”
The statement said taking the statement of the government into consideration, the meeting felt that it was not possible to publish the newspapers in view of this direction of the State government.
The newspaper editors apologized to the readers for the breakdown of the newspaper publications which was beyond their control, the statement said.
It said the meeting strongly condemned this formal ban of the government which was not only reprehensible but also against the norms of a democratic set up.
The editors assured the readers that as soon as the government lifts the press emergency we will resume our publications, the statement said.
The journalists later held a protest at Residency Road outside the Press Colony against the clampdown on media.
They staged a sit-in and were carrying placards which read 'Stop Censorship', 'We Want Freedom of Speech', ‘Don’t Stifle The Media’ and 'End Communication Curfew', ‘Hypocrites Get Offended By The Truth’, ‘Censorship Is To Art As Lynching Is To Justice’, ‘If Freedom Of Speech Is Taken Away, Then Dumb And Silent We May Be Led, Like Sheep To The Slaughter’, ‘Give Me The Liberty To Know, To Utter, And To Argue Freely According To Conscience, Above All Liberties’ and ‘Because If You Don't Stand Up For The Stuff You Don't Like, When They Come For The Stuff You Do Like, You've Already Lost.’
The ban imposed by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti-led State government on the publication of the newspaper for three days is yet another attack on Kashmir Press.
The previous successive State government too had imposed similar bans during the 2008 and 2010 summer uprisings and also after the hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru in 2013.
In the summers of 2008, the then government had banned publication of newspapers for nine days while the Omar Abdullah-led government had banned publication of newspapers for seven days in the summers of 2010.
The State government has already blocked mobile internet services and cellular services of all mobile telecom operators barring BSNL Postpaid.