The Jammu and Kashmir administration has extended an 'informal' ban on government advertisements to one of the largest circulating Urdu newspapers of the Valley, Kashmir Uzma after stopping advertisements two prominent English newspapers of the Kashmir last month.
“All of a sudden, advertisements are stopped. And when we approach the concerned information department officials, they say they have orders from the above and when we meet the higher officials, they say they have orders from the above and this chain doesn’t stop anywhere,” said an official of Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG). He told Outlook that “All this is happening informally.” “There is no formal order anywhere. No order has been issued. It is on verbal directions that newspapers are targeted,” he said.
The government had earlier stopped government advertisements to two English dailies, Greater Kashmir, the largest in terms of circulation, and Kashmir Reader. Now, the government has added 'Kashmir Uzma to the list. The KEG, which is a representative body of 13 local English and vernacular newspapers, described the ban as “continuous assault on the press.”
“We don’t know where it will stop,” the KEG officials said. “It looks like ghosts are ruling the state as no one takes responsibility of the orders”.
The government spokesman Rohit Kansal refused to comment on the issue. “You may please contact the secretary or the director information for a response. The information is the appropriate department to respond.” The Director Information refused to comment on the issue as well. Another senior official from the Information Department pleading anonymity said all this is happening without orders. “We are just conveying the orders to the newspapers,” the official said. The advisor to Governor Vijay Kumar did not respond to repeated phone calls.
In the recent past, journalist bodies in Jammu and Kashmir have been accusing the government of harassment and arresting journalists in Kashmir region for reporting stories.
On January 22 this year in Shopian district, four journalists including Hindustan Times photojournalist, Waseem Andrabi, Rising Kashmir‘s Nisar ul Haq, Junaid Gulzar and Mir Burhan were fired with pellets by the forces. Waseem Andrabi was left with six pellet wounds to his face and neck. Later, the government debarred several journalists from covering the Republic Day function in Srinagar stating that they are in the adverse list of the police.
In 2018, several journalists were targeted and were booked under various laws. In September 2017, a photojournalist, Kamran Yousuf, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and detained under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). He was released on bail in March 2018. In July 2018, another journalist, Auqib Javid, associated with the daily Kashmir Observer, was summoned and interrogated by the NIA for his interview with Aasiya Andrabi, a separatist leader.
In August 2018, Aasif Sultan, the Assistant Editor at the Kashmir Narrator, was arrested under the UAPA. The cause for Sultan’s arrest was said to be the cover story on militant commander Burhan Wani that he had written for his magazine in July. The police have charged him with “publication of content glamorising terrorism in the state”, “harbouring terrorists” and “for possession of incriminating material” on his laptop. In January, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik to drop all legal proceedings against Asif Sultan and release him. Sultan is undergoing detention since August 27.
In 2018, foreign journalists were restricted to report and travel to Jammu and Kashmir as the Government of India also issued an advisory to foreign correspondents working in India, reminding them that they need prior permission before travelling to certain ‘protected’ areas, including Jammu and Kashmir.
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