Editors and owners of newspapers based in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday condemned the crackdown on media in the state, calling it an "attack on the freedom of press". In an emergency meeting called to protest against the media gag, participants vowed to "fight back" against such attempts at censorship. They alleged that instead of issuing a formal directive, the government has imposed undemocratic restrictions verbally, bypassing all legal formalities.
Local newspapers in curfew-bound Kashmir valley failed to hit the stands on Saturday as authorities allegedly raided some media offices and detained a few of their employees while seizing the printed copies. Publishers of major Urdu and English newspapers in Kashmir, including the Kashmir Reader and Greater Kashmir, said police conducted midnight raids at the printing presses, and most newspapers working out of Srinagar couldn't go to print. The distribution of papers was also targeted in the state, where at least 39 people have been killed in clashes.
A government spokesperson, who was contacted during the meeting, said "movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers will not be possible" as a result of the "serious trouble" anticipated in the state the next three days.
The editors and other mediapersons in attendance concluded that publishing newspapers amid such restrictions would not be feasible. In a statement to the press, they apologised to readers, saying it was "beyond their control", and also condemned the "formal ban" on the press, calling it "reprehensible" and against democracy.Among those present at the meeting were the editors of dailies Greater Kashmir, Rising Kashmir and Daily Kashmir Images, as well as those of Urdu newspapers Aftab and Tameel-e-Irshad. "Media is an important part of democracy. If you target the media, you are targeting democracy. By banning newspapers, the government is giving space to rumours," said Bashir Manzar, the editor of Daily Kashmir Images.
Here's the full text from their statement:
An emergency meeting of Kashmir based Newspaper Editors/Owners was held on Saturday afternoon in which the situation arising out of the police raids on all the printing presses was discussed threadbare.
This action of the government which resulted in breakdown of circulation of newspapers was strongly condemned.
The participants termed it as an attack on the freedom of press and vowed to fight it back at all costs.
Meanwhile, a government spokesperson when contacted amidst of the meeting conveyed that “in view of apprehensions of serious trouble in Kashmir valley in next three days aimed at subverting peace strict curfew will be imposed and movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers will not be possible”.
Taking the statement of the government in to consideration, the meeting felt that it is not possible to publish the newspapers in view of this direction of the state government.
The newspaper editors apologized to the readers for the breakdown of the newspaper publications which is beyond their control.
The meeting strongly condemned this formal ban of the government which is not only reprehensible but also is against the norms of a democratic set up.
The editors assured the readers that as soon as the government lifts the press emergency we will resume our publications.