Newspaper publishers and editors in Kashmir on Tuesday decided not to come out with their publications for the fifth day on Wednesday, alleging that the People’s Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party government was not speaking in one voice and not owning up the ‘press emergency’ imposed by it.
The decision was taken after a two-hour meeting of owners and editors of newspapers who met here to take stock of the situation, especially after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s advisor Amitabh Mattoo had personally met them on Monday and ‘apologised’.
The announcement came hours after Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said in Delhi that Mufti had told him there was no ban on publication of newspapers in the Valley.
The meeting, which was called for reviewing the ‘press emergency’ imposed by the government on printing and distribution of newspapers, asked the state government to own up the raids that were carried out on the printing presses during the intervening night of July 15 and 16 when printed newspapers and plates were seized, and even the printing staff was detained.
Later, Education Minister Naeem Akther had met the editors and asked them not to bring out editions for next three days as movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers was not possible because of strict curfew restrictions across the Kashmir Valley.
“One finds it surprising that the advisor came and apologised for the mistake and later went to town saying that there was no ban on newspaper and that the chief minister was not aware that the newspapers did not publish for last three days,” editor of Kashmir Images Bashir Manzar said after the meeting.
While Mattoo was apologising on one end, ‘the state government resorted to propaganda blitzkrieg insisting that there was no ban’.
‘They used all the available media to hit the credibility of the newspapers that have a history of not ceasing publication even when their members were killed,’ a release issued by the association said.
The association has taken the issue ‘very seriously’ and conveyed to Mattoo that the state government ‘must own up the ban and issue a statement guaranteeing that media operations will not be hampered, from the movement of staff, which includes news gathering, printing and the distribution of the newspapers’.
‘We have not heard anything from anybody in the government since then. It indicates that the government has not changed its press emergency,’ the release said, adding that it would not be ‘possible for us to resume publication of newspapers. We will review the progress on Wednesday’.
No local daily -- English or Urdu -- was available as the newspaper owners decided not to publish them after the ‘clampdown’ by the government on Friday night.
Jammu and Kashmir Police on Friday closed down the offices of at least two printing presses after seizing plates of newspaper and printed copies in Rangreth Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Srinigar.
IMAGE: CRPF jawans stand guard during curfew and strike for the 11th consecutive day in Srinagar on Tuesday. Photograph: S Irfan/PTI Photo