Kashmir Newspapers to Hit the Stands on Thursday

Editors, publishers decide on resumption of printing after assurances from chief minister, district officials of non-interference

New Delhi: After three days of ban imposed by the Jammu and Kashmir government and a day’s boycott of their own to protest against the government’s refusal to own up to the ban, the owners and editors of local newspapers in Kashmir on Wednesday decided to resume printing after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti assured them that the administration would not interfere with their work.

The action of the state government had come in for severe criticism from various quarters across the country and had even been raised in parliament.

It was early on Saturday morning that the police had raided the premises of three newspapers in SrinagarRising Kashmir, Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Times – and seized the printed copies and plates, and detained some staff members.

Subsequently, government officials had told the newspaper editors and owners to keep their publications closed for three days as the situation in the state remained volatile with public protests feared – especially in the wake of Pakistan calling for observing a ‘black day’ on July 19 against the gunning down of militant commander Burhan Wani and for showing solidarity with those killed in police action against protestors across the state.

As the state government had officially not acknowledged the ban, the newspapers had on Tuesday decided to boycott publication for a day in protest. However, after a meeting between a media delegation and Mehbooba Mufti, they decided to resume printing and to bring out their editions on Thursday morning.

Rashid Makhdoomi, printer and publisher of Greater Kashmir, the largest selling local daily in Kashmir, went on record to state that the chief minister had assured them the government would not interfere in the functioning of newspapers. However, he said, she insisted that it was not the government’s decision to implement the ban.

Journalists in the state have not only been angered by the government action but also by what they say is its doublespeak on the issue. On Tuesday, they had decried the government stand stating that the ban was “formalised by a senior cabinet minister and state government spokesman”.

Further, they had accused the government of running a “propaganda blitzkrieg” in order to attack the ” credibility” of the local media.

The newspaper owners and editors had stated that the official spokesperson, Naeem Akhtar, had categorically stated that the government had imposed the ban to prevent “attempts to subvert peace” in the Valley. They claimed that he had stated last week that it was an unusual situation and this had forced the government to “take such an undesirable step”.

On the other hand, political advisor to the chief minister, Amitabh Mattoo, had claimed that the state government was not responsible for the ban. Following his insistence and subsequent clarifications from the district magistrates of Srinagar and Budgam that there was no restriction on the printing of newspapers, the media groups decided to resume publishing.

However, with the internet still blocked in many parts of Kashmir, the internet editions of the newspapers will continue to not be available to online readers in the valley.