KEG regrets action against news organizations, calls for revisiting media policy
Srinagar, Oct 20 : The sealing of Kashmir Times office in Srinagar’s press colony has evoked sharp criticism with politicians, journalists and people from other walks of life extending their solidarity with its Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin.
On Monday, officials of Estates Department sealed the Kashmir Times office.
“We have not received any notice from the Estates Department. Our office has been sealed without serving us any notice,” Bhasin told.
In one of her tweets she said, “Estates Deptt locked our office without any due process of cancellation & 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! A govt policy to reserve 5 percent quota of govt accommodation for certain categories including journalists is a matter of right. It would be favour if the journalist chooses to become silent to enjoy the benefits. They can lock the building, not our voice.”
The Kashmir Times is one of the oldest newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir. Two weeks ago, she was also evicted from her official residence in Jammu.
She had earlier filed a petition in Supreme Court against the communication blackout after abrogation of J&K’s special status last August, seeking direction to the Centre for immediate relaxation on communication blackout in the Valley.
The National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Apni Paty others 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,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
PDP president Mehbboba Mufti said 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 said.
Awami National Conference President Khalida Shah said that this action of the authorities is arbitrary, unethical, malicious and against the basic principles of fair play, she said.
She demanded the immediate restoration of the status quo ante in favour of ‘Kashmir Times’ and Kashmir News Service office.
She said that the barbaric attack on the print and electronic media is the denial of fundamental rights of every citizen who lives under the umbrella of democratic setup.
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 Vice President and former MLC G N Monga said the BJP government was leaving no stone unturned to muzzle the freedom of press.
Awami National Conference leader Muzaffar Shah said, “Kashmir stands behind Kashmir Times. We are with you Anuradha & Prabodh.”
Meanwhile, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) regrets the sealing of the Kashmir Times by the Estates Department. The quarter that was allotted to the newspaper was the office of the Jammu 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.
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 is calling upon 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. It also calls upon the 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.