The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s move to seal the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times has evoked strong reactions from the media fraternity in the Valley and political parties.
“The Estates Department locked the Kashmir Times office without any due process of cancellation and eviction, same way as I was evicted from a flat in Jammu, where my belongings, including valuables, were handed over to “new allottee”. Vendetta for speaking out! No due process followed. How peevish!” its editor Anuradha Bhasin said.
Ms. Bhasin, who filed a petition before the Supreme Court on the media gag last year, has been at the forefront of fighting against the Internet ban in J&K and for press freedom after the abrogation of J&K’s special status on August 5 last year.
According to the Kashmir Times management, nothing in writing was given to the publication.
“The Estates Department did not give any reasons for the government action. Its employees, who came to the newspaper’s office to lock it, told the staffers to move out. When the management asked for the orders, the Estates Department officials said that they had no orders and asked them to approach the senior officers instead”, the management said.
This comes just days after the employees of a wire service, “Kashmir News Service”, were asked to vacate a building “without proper notice”.
The journalists in the Valley have condemned the action. “In solidarity with Ms. Bhasin, a group of journalists have offered their professional services free. There are renewed attempts by the state agencies to throttle Kashmir Times , a respected newspaper in both Jammu and Kashmir regions with a rich history of practicing independent journalism.
A group of 12 Valley-based journalists wrote in a joint statement, “In view of these government-sponsored intimidation attempts to silence an independent newspaper, we express our solidarity and support to its editors and our colleagues there.”
The National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have also condemned the move.
“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,” NC vice president and ex-Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
PDP president Mehbboba Mufti said Ms. Bhasin was one of the few local newspaper editors in J&K “who stood up to the Government of India's illegal and disruptive actions in the state”.
“Shutting down her office in Srinagar is straight out of the BJPs vendetta play book to settle scores with those who dare to disagree”, she stated.