Major English and Urdu newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday published blank front pages in protest against the state government’s suspension of advertising to two local English dailies – Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader.

The first pages of the newspapers part of the Kashmir Editors Guild read: “In protest against unexplained denial of government advertisements to Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader.”

In February, the Jammu and Kashmir administration, under Governor Satya Pal Malik, had suspended advertising to the two newspapers without specifying a reason. The Kashmir Editors Guild had in an earlier statement said the state administration is trying “deliberate strangulation and subversion of the institution of media in the state”.

Since the ban, Greater Kashmir has reduced its edition of 20 pages to 12 pages, while Kashmir Reader has cut four pages and is down to publishing a 12-page edition, according to the Free Speech Collective.

On Friday, the guild demanded a response from the administration to the “crippling order”. “At a time when world’s largest democracy is readying for one of the major electoral exercises on earth, the Kashmir editors’ guild is lamenting over the continued denial and unexplained halt to the rightful disbursal of government advertisements to Kashmir’s two major daily newspapers – Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader,” a guild spokesperson said in a statement. “The enigmatic decision is directly hitting the constitutional guarantees that encourage free media in democratic societies.”

Greater Kashmir was already blacklisted from getting ads from the central government’s Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity in 2008. In 2016, Kashmir Reader was banned for three months during mass protests by the coalition government of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Peoples Democratic Party.

The state has been under President’s rule since December 2018. Governor’s rule was imposed in June 2018 when the coalition state government fell apart after the Bharatiya Janata Party pulled out of an alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party.