Srinagar: Decrying the state govt for propaganda blitzkrieg that there was no ban on print media in Kashmir, owners and editors Tuesday unanimously demanded an apology from the state government for Friday night raids on newspaper offices and printing houses and a written undertaking by the government that no such action will be taken in future besides guarantees of safety and unhindered movement of newspaper staff, including reporters and hawkers.
The government had imposed the ban on Saturday after police raided newspaper printing presses and their offices, seizing printing material and copies of already printed papers besides detaining the press staff.
But on Monday, three days after the raid, the government did a volte face denying the ban, saying a communication gap had led to the mistake even as a senior cabinet minister and official spokesperson, Nayeem Akhtar, had clearly asked editors and publishers to stop printing.
Chief Ministers political adviser, Amitabh Mattoo, said the decision to temporarily ban newspaper publication was imposed without the knowledge of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Sometimes decisions taken at a local level is not something the highest authority approves of. There was some miscommunication, he said.
On Tuesday the owners and editors of newspapers met for more than two hours to discuss the press emergency imposed by the government on printing and distribution of newspapers.
It started with the raids on our printing facilities seizing newspapers, plates and even detaining the press staff during the intervening night of 15 and 16 July, the statement released by the forum said. The ban was later formalized by the senior cabinet minister and the state government spokesman saying that in the backdrop of strict curfew restrictions across Kashmir, the movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers will become impossible. In adverse climate that the government enforced, newspapers ceased publications immediately.
On Monday Chief Ministers Adviser Prof Amitabh Mattoo approached the newspaper owners insisting that it was a mistake for which he apologized.
At the same time, however, the state government resorted to propaganda blitzkrieg insisting that there was no ban. They used all the available media to hit the credibility of the valley based newspapers that has a history of not ceasing its publication even when it members were killed during past two decades of turmoil.
Editors took this issue very seriously, the statement said. They asked Prof Mattoo that the government must own the ban and issue a statement guaranteeing that media operations are not being hampered from the movement of staff, to newsgathering, printing and the distribution of the newspapers.
We have not heard anything from anybody in the government since then. It indicates that the government has not changed its press emergency.
In wake of these developments, the editors and the owners of the newspapers regret that it may not be possible for us to resume publication of newspapers. We will review the progress on Wednesday, the statement read.
Meanwhile government transferred SSP Budgam reportedly for raiding printing presses and detaining employees of the presses.
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