JAMMU and Kashmir government has announced lifting of ban on Kashmir Reader, a Srinagar based English daily.
“The situation has improved in the Valley and at the same time the newspaper had given a representation to the government, which has been considered. The government thinks that continuation of ban is not necessary now. The order for the revocation of the ban, which is now a mere formality, is expected tomorrow (Monday),” Director Information, Dr.Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, told Outlook.
The newspaper, according to the sources, can resume publication from Monday, December 26.
On October 2, the newspaper was asked to stop publication. For the imposition of the ban, the government cited an order of September 30, delivered to the paper after three days. The order accused the newspaper of “publishing content that can incite acts of violence” and “disturb public tranquillity”.
The newspaper extensively covered the protests in Kashmir which erupted after the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen commander, Burhan Muzaffer Wani on July 8, and reported in detail human rights violations committed by the government forces.
Wani’s funeral witnessed biggest congregation of past one decade in Kashmir Valley. At least 90 protesters were killed and over 10000 wounded, with hundreds visually impaired as the government forces fired pellets and bullets to tackle protesters.
The government information department later issued a statement that said the order had been issued a week after the Kashmir Reader was served a notice to explain its “position on a series of items published disturbing public tranquillity and notwithstanding the principles of rules governing the subject (sic)”. However, no such notice was served to the paper.
The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG), had termed the ban as “against the spirit of democracy and freedom of press”. The guild had sought intervention of the Press Council of India and had warned of “direct action” if the government failed to revoke the ban immediately. However, the KEG held several meetings but didn’t execute its warning of the “direct action.”
The KEG also held meeting with the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and sought lifting of the ban. However, the KEG didn’t issue a statement about their meeting with the Chief Minister.
The KJEG, however, had said the ban, without any prior notice to the Printer, Publisher and Owner of Kashmir Reader was against the basic spirit of democracy.
Kashmir based Journalists lodged protests and took marches seeking revocation of the ban but the government remained unmoved.
Later Amnesty International India also issued statement asking the “authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to revoke an order to stop the printing and publication of Kashmir Reader.”
“The District Magistrate’s order does not specifically mention any news items in Kashmir Reader that incited violence,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India. “This vaguely-worded shutdown order suggests that the newspaper is being targeted for its reporting.”
“The media plays a crucial role in reporting human rights abuses. The government has a duty to respect the freedom of the press, and the right of people to receive information. It cannot shut down a newspaper simply for being critical of the government.”
In July, the state government shut down the publication of local newspapers in Kashmir for three days with the government spokesman saying that it was temporary measure in response to an extraordinary situation.