Kashmir Press on Strike to Lift Restrictions

Journalists protesting censorship in Srinagar, capital of Kashmir

Srinagar, July 10, KONS: In a major development during a highly volatile situation in the valley, Srinagar newspapers on Saturday suspended publication indefinitely to protest against “draconian” government measures which, according them, have “made it impossible for journalists to cover news stories and bring out newspapers.”

Media associations in Kashmir, which met for the second day on Saturday after announcing a one-day strike yesterday, extended their stir indefinitely saying that publications would not be resumed until concrete measures were taken to “restore the complete freedom of the media in Kashmir.”

Kashmir’s media professionals, both print and electronic, held an angry protest demonstration at the Press Enclave here, coming down heavily on the state government for its curbs and restrictions. Having gagged themselves with black bands, the journalists carried placards demanding lifting the “undeclared ban on newspapers” and the ‘curfew on news.”

The local media described itself as completely paralyzed, saying that the situation it found itself in presently was “unprecedented” in the past 20 years. Asking for a withdrawal of cases against media persons, it has demanded a public assurance from the government that there would be no restrictions on the media, and that the assurance would be implemented in letter and spirit.

The local media’s current tiff with the government began when curfew passes to pressmen were withdrawn as the valley was put under severe curbs and the army called out in Srinagar following the killing of four civilians here within 24 hours on Monday.

Even in the rare case where publication was managed during the curfew, it was impossible to distribute newspapers in the city and the outlying districts because of total curbs on the movement of the circulation network.

The government infuriated the local press corps further by allowing Delhi based networks ready access and movement during curfew, and according to Kashmir’s media associations, gave them full help, assistance and government hospitality to ensure coverage of events suitable to the authorities.

Even the rare Delhi-based channel highlighting the disturbing side- effects of prolonged strict curfew and criticizing the state government has not been spared as was seen in the case of News X whose Srinagar correspondent Suhail Bukhari was booked under draconian laws, forcing it to shut down its office here because of harassment and threat to the life of its staff.

Operations of local cable TV channels too have been severely restricted, while their counterparts in the other part of the state are free to air content of their choice.

Media associations in Kashmir have condemned the restrictions on their functioning, saying that the approach of the government was “unashamed” as it had not shown any respect for the sector as an important institution.

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