On July 8, local dailies and magazines in Kashmir were filled with stories about Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who had been killed by the security forces on the same day last year. His death had triggered months of protest and bloodshed. Kashmir Ink, the weekly attached to the daily, Greater Kashmir, featured the slain militant on the cover, in an issue titled “Kashmir, A Year After Burhan’s Death”.
But when the magazine posted the cover on Facebook, it was removed by the social media website, Greater Kashmir reported. On July 8, the publication’s Facebook page was also blocked for a day. It received a standard message from Facebook: “You’re temporarily blocked from posting. This temporary block will last for 24 hours, and you won’t be able to post on Facebook until it’s finished. We removed the post below because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards.”
In an email statement, Majid Maqbool, executive editor of Kashmir Ink, said the social network’s actions were “completely unjustified”. Maqbool sought an immediate restoration of the page. “Our official page should be restored soon so that our online readers are able to see and access the latest issue,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, the magazine’s Facebook page was still blocked, Maqbool told Scroll.in. “We can only surf the page, we are not allowed to share any story or send any messages yet from the page,” he said.
Assessing a momentous year
“The entire issue is on assessing the year gone by,” Maqbool told Scroll.in on the phone. “The government’s response to” the unrest. It contained reports about the possibilities of political dialogue between various parties, the status of probes into civilian deaths, and the status of the Agenda of Alliance the pact between the coalition partners in the government, he said.
The cover, a portrait of Wani on a red background, was designed by Greater Kashmir’s editorial cartoonist, Suhail Naqshbandi. “It is only a portrait of Burhan with a headline,” Naqshbandi said. The cover did not include any imagery of weapons, he pointed out, neither did it feature a bandana inscribed with the Islamic kalima, a motif in a widely circulated picture of Wani.
The coverage, he said, was about “one year of momentous things, whose repercussions are still felt. That has rattled the Valley. Everyone outlet has done it. There is nothing unusual that we did it.” Naqshbandi said he did not understand what prompted netizens to report the post. “If the cover has hit the raw nerve of the people, I can do nothing about it,” he said.
No stated reason
The staff at Kashmir Ink are baffled about why their page was blocked and the cover picture removed. “We had Burhan Wani on our front cover earlier in the year as well, but the official Facebook page was not blocked, neither was the cover removed as it has been now without giving any prior intimation or reasons,” said Maqbool in his mailed statement.
Since he joined Kashmir Ink in 2012, Maqbool told Scroll.in, the publication’s Facebook posts have not been pulled down. Until now. The post was perhaps removed after “it was reported en-masse” by Facebook users, Maqbool said.
Naqshbandi also had a similar diagnosis of the matter. “People may have reported the post, and Facebook’s algorithms then blocked it,” he speculated.
Scroll.in mailed Facebook officials on Sunday, asking about the circumstances and its reasons for blocking the content. There has so far been no response from the social network.