The Press Association on Wednesday criticised the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s decision to seal the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times and demanded its opening, PTI reported. The newspaper, one of the oldest English dailies in Jammu and Kashmir, had functioned out of government allotted offices since the 1990s.
Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of the newspaper, on Monday accused the administration of having a vendetta against the daily for taking a critical stance about government policies. She had said that the due process of law was not followed and they were not given notices of eviction prior to when it happened.
In a statement, the Press Association condemned the “abrupt sealing” of the office. “According to Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of the newspaper, no notice was given for the sealing,” the statement said. “The Press Association demands immediate opening of The Kashmir Times office to allow the journalists to carry on their professional duty.”
The association, which is a media body of accredited journalists, also quoted Bhasin as saying that the government was “targeting her” for speaking against the administration. “The state administration should bring the ‘erring’ officials to book,” the statement said. “Law of the land should take its own course and a renowned newspaper office should not be sealed in this way.”
Estates Department officials have claimed they only “took possession” of a house allotted to the newspaper’s deceased founder Ved Bhasin in 1994. “The building sealed by the department might have been used as an office in the past but now they are operating from the other allotted accommodation, as per our reports,” an official, who did not want to be identified, told Scroll.in. “The sealed building was now being used for residential purposes and since the allotment was in the name of a person who is no longer alive, the government decided to take it back.”
Bhasin rejected the official’s claim. “I am not mad that I will put up a newspaper’s board on a residence I am staying in,” she added. “The other building they are talking about was alloted in my husband’s name in 2002 as a residence.”
Mainstream political parties have also condemned the sealing of the Kashmir Times office and accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of scuttling press freedom and dissent. Journalists, too, have criticised “the government-sponsored intimidation attempts to silence an independent newspaper”.
Bhasin, who has been at the forefront of the fight for press freedom and against the Internet ban after the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir last year, was evicted from her official residence in Jammu two months ago.
The journalist had filed a petition in Supreme Court against the communications blackout imposed in Kashmir after the Centre stripped the region of Article 370.