Office Sealing Part of Abnormality Being Enforced on Kashmir Media: KEG

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Srinagar- Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) has regretted the sealing of the Kashmir Times by the Estates Department. The quarter that was allotted to the newspaper was the office of the Jammu based newspaper’s Kashmir bureau since the early 1990s.

The Guild believes that the government should have followed the due process of law.

“In recent days, this is the second instance in which a media organisation was arbitrarily ousted from duly allotted premises”. Earlier, a local news gathering agency, Kashmir News Service (KNS) had also its office sealed.

“The Guild sees the sealing as the continuation of an abnormality being enforced on Kashmir media for a long time especially since 2010. In the last 10 years, the successive regimes have created a very unpleasant history as for as operations of the media in Kashmir is concerned. Preventing circulation of newspapers, blacklisting the newspapers from getting government advertisements in Srinagar and Delhi, and interrupting negatively in the routine operations have adversely impacted the media. These are in addition to the issues that reporters face on a daily basis while gathering information” KEG said in a statement here on Tuesday.

“In the last few years, the administration has gone for an upgrade in its policy towards the media as a result of which the arbitrary measures are being taken now. Though the entire media fraternity has been insisting that the media policy announced by the Jammu and Kashmir administration early this year is neither jellying with the spirit of democracy nor the basics of information management in the twenty-first century, the authorities have skipped responding to the suggestion.”

The Guild has called on the administration to unseal the premises from which Kashmir Times and KNS offices were operating from “till the due process of law comes out with a solution. “

Guild has asked authorities to revisit the Media Policy and make it a ‘forward-looking professional document rather than an early twentieth century dictate’.

“The Guild takes this opportunity to request the stakeholders in media and society to avoid resorting to the vilification of the Kashmir media because it helps nobody to prosper.”

Parties Slam Move, Journalists Protest

Meanwhile political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday reacted sharply to the sealing of the office of ‘Kashmir Times’ here by authorities, while a group of about dozen journalists offered their services for free as a mark of solidarity with the newspaper.

The Estates Department on Monday sealed the office of the prominent English daily allotted to it in a government building at Press Enclave, with the newspaper owners claiming that no prior notice was given to them.

Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah condemned the government action.

“This explains why some of our ‘esteemed’ publications have decided to become government mouthpieces, printing only government press handouts. The price of independent reportage is to be evicted without due process,” he alleged in his tweet.

Former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti said sealing of ‘Kashmir Times’ newspaper office is straight out of BJPs vendetta playbook to settle scores with those who dare to disagree.

“Anuradha was one of the few local newspaper editors in J&K who stood upto GOIs illegal & disruptive actions in the state. Shutting down her office in Srinagar is straight out of BJPs vendetta playbook to settle scores with those who dare to disagree,” Mehbooba tweeted.

Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party also condemned the sealing of Kashmir Times newspaper’s office

In a statement, spokesman of the Party said that the action taken by the estates department as elucidated by the Kashmir Times is unjustified. “Not following the procedural formalities the estate department’s action is totally unwarranted and illegal,” the spokesman said.

Apni Party spokesman urged the Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha to intervene into the matter and inquire into the circumstances which have led to shutting down of a prestigious newspaper institution in Srinagar.

CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami alleged that “it is nothing but vendetta politics and an attempt to suppress the dissenting voices in the region”.

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (J&KPCC) Vice President and former MLC G N Monga said the BJP government was leaving no stone unturned to muzzle the freedom of press.

Expressing solidarity with Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin, the group of journalists alleged that there are renewed attempts ‘to throttle the daily” which has been “at the forefront of fighting against government curbs on communications and press freedom in Kashmir, especially post-August 5”.

“We express our solidarity and support to its editors and our colleagues there,” it said

“Some of the undersigned journalists would also like to extend an offer of devoting some work hours, for free, every day to support the Kashmir Times editorial team which can somewhat help sustain the paper in these difficult times,” it said in a statement.

Bhasin had alleged that her newspaper had been targeted as she had moved the Supreme Court against media restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre abrogated Article 370 in August last year.

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