SRINAGAR: For the third consecutive day, no newspapers in Kashmir are printing as the media gag is in force in the wake of hanging of Azfal Guru. News channels are jammed and the internet services are withdrawn.
“We were informed by the police that they will not be permitting printing of the newspapers so do not make any effort,” Tahir Ahmad of the Kashmir Times said. “They even sent a party to our printing press just to ensure that there is no activity.”
No curfew passes were issued to media, so far. “We did approach the government and they said since newspapers are not printing what is fun of issuing a pass,” one journalist, who managed to reach the press colony said. Reports move around either during wee hours or late in the night when there are no or negligible deployments.
Police said the security grid is unnecessarily being blamed for the media gag. It is actually a government order issued by the district magistrate Srinagar on February 9, 2013. “In view of apprehensions of the breach of peace and to stop the incitement of the violence, the broadcast/telecast of the news from local radio / FM / cable channels operating in District Srinagar is hereby suspended temporarily, till further orders,” the three lines ‘Order’ said. The order has clear hand written marking to the police for strict compliance.
The order, however, does not mention newspapers; they have been closed down, literally. While all the channels are working normally, the newspapers are paralyzed. “Police talks us on day to day basis that they will not permit us to print,” Abdul Rashid Mukhdoomi, the printer and publisher of Greater Kashmir said. “They even go to printing presses on daily basis.” He said he is unaware of any order and has not been served so far. “The tragic part is that we do not know when they will permit us to go to the print,” he said.
All the major newspapers are now using their on line editions to give news. But it serves no purpose because internet services have been withdrawn by all the providers including BSNL. The BSNL broadband is available in select areas of Srinagar especially the Press Colony.
Even though the news channels are operating, not many people are able to watch news. Cable operators have been asked not to beam the news channels. Only those people have access to news channels who have installed private dishes.
But information blockade is not being used by the incumbent government for the first time. Every time, there is a bit of crisis, media is the first casualty. It has been happening repeatedly since 2009.
Admitting that there is no official order that stops newspapers from printing, a senior official said that in law and order situation it is the police that takes over. He refused to be identified.