Newspapers in Kashmir refuse to publish

Published - July 20, 2016 02:36 am IST - SRINAGAR:

Owners and editors of newspapers in Kashmir on Tuesday decided not to publish dailies in protest against the Mehbooba Mufti government’s failure to own the “ban order” issued three days ago.

Several newspaper owners said the Chief Minister’s adviser Amitabh Mattoo approached them on Monday “insisting it was a mistake for which he had apologised”.

An officer of the rank of Senior Superintendent of Police has been transferred for “acting against the media”.

After a meeting in Srinagar on Tuesday, the owners and editors released a statement saying the State government had resorted to a “propaganda blitzkrieg insisting there was no ban”.

“It [J&K 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 distribution of newspapers.”

The editors claimed that State Education Minister and government spokesperson Naeem Akhtar had met them and asked them not to bring out editions for next few days citing strict curfew restrictions across the Kashmir Valley.

The editors said there was no indication that the government had changed its “press emergency”.

“In the 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,” said the statement.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah also castigated Ms. Mufti for inept handling of the present situation and the media ban.

“Nobody knows who is in control of the situation at the moment. I am surprised that Ms. Mufti is unaware of the situation. First they said the CM was aware of [militant commander] Burhan Wani’s encounter and now they are saying she didn’t know. Then they said media ban was imposed, now they say they didn’t impose any ban and those who did it will be punished,” said Mr. Abdullah.

Legislator Engineer Rashid said the contradiction between the statements of Mr. Mattoo and Mr. Akhtar regarding blocking publication of newspapers “has exposed the immoral and unethical face of the government.”

State Congress chief G.A. Mir also expressed serious concern over “imposing of ban on the media without the approval of the Chief Minister.” “It is impossible. Mr. Mattoo is trying to shift focus and prove that the ban on the media had no approval of Ms. Mufti. If Mr. Mattoo is right in his position, then the matter is very serious and needs to be looked into.”

Even as the death toll in Kashmir violence climbed to 44 with the killing of three civilians on Monday, the Army and the police ordered an inquiry into the “excessive” use of force in two separate cases of firing.

A Srinagar-based Army spokesman, while expressing regret over the firing in Qazigund in which three civilians, including two women, died on Monday evening, said “an inquiry has been ordered into the incident.”

“Troops were forced to open fire when a large mob turned violent and attempted to snatch weapons from the soldiers,” he added.

Around seven civilians, including an eight-year-old child, were also injured in the Army firing, fuelling fresh unrest and stoking anger.

In a separate incident in Srinagar, the Chief Judicial Magistrate has directed the Senior Superintendent Police to register an FIR against Deputy Superintendent of Police Yasir Qadri after a family in Batamaloo alleged that the police officer barged into their house and shot dead one of their members.

The family has alleged that on July 10 Mr. Qadri entered their house and shot the youth from his pistol when he “objected to the thrashing of his mother.”

The Qazigund killings have come at a time when the government claimed that the violence has come down significantly in the Valley, where curfew and a ban on communication remained in place for eleventh day on Tuesday.

In view of the tension in Qazigund, the Amarnath yatra was suspended for the third time as the area connects Jammu with Pahalgam, the only route of the pilgrimage.

Sporadic protests and attacks on security installations continued in parts of south and north Kashmir, and Srinagar.

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