The owners and editors of newspapers in Kashmir on Tuesday decided to not come out with their publications for another day saying that the state government had “resorted to a propaganda blitzkrieg insisting that there was no ban”.
The statement of the owners and editors came barely hours after Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu spoke to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti about the ban and the latter claimed that there had been no curbs on the publication of the newspapers.
Responding angrily to these assertions, media houses – which had been directed by the State Government to not publish for three days – took a call to not publish for another day and to review the situation on Wednesday.
Speaking to The Wire, Shujaat Bukhari, editor of Rising Kashmir, whose printing press and offices were among those raided by the state police early on Saturday morning and copies seized, said the state’s journalists were angry with the government for not owning up to the ban. “They are now denying that it ever happened.”
The statement by the group of editors and owners also stated that at their meeting, which lasted over two hours, “the press emergency imposed by the government on printing and distribution of newspapers” was discussed.
Referring to the Saturday’s action by the police on the premises of Rising Kashmir, Kashmir Times and Greater Kashmir, the editors and owners said the government had clamped down through raids on the printing facilities by seizing newspapers, plates and even detaining the printing staff.
“The ban was later formalized by the senior cabinet minister and the state government’s spokesman saying that in the backdrop of strict curfew restrictions across Kashmir, the movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers would be impossible. In the adverse climate that the government enforced, newspapers ceased publications immediately.”
“On Monday, the Chief Minister’s adviser Prof Amitabh Mattoo approached us insisting that it was a `mistake’ for which he apologized, but at the same time, however, the state government resorted to propaganda insisting that there was no ban,” the statement by media representatives said.
Now the editors want the government to acknowledge that there was a ban and issue a statement guaranteeing that media operations will not be hampered and that this would cover the movement of staff, newsgathering, printing and the distribution of the newspapers.
“We have not heard anything from anybody in the government since then. In the wake of these developments, the editors and the owners of the newspapers regret that it will not be possible to resume publication of newspapers. We will review the progress on Wednesday,” the statement said.