In a blatant attempt to gag the media in Kashmir, authorities allegedly raided some media offices and detained a few of their employees while seizing printed copies, reported PTI.
In what is seen as almost ‘emergency like censorship’ the police conducted midnight raids at printing presses of major Urdu and English newspapers and as a result, most newspapers working out of Srinagar couldn’t go to print. This move hit most with a surprise as there were no prior warnings given to the publishers and unlike the internet “gag” no orders or directives were circulated.
Cellphone and internet services remain disabled in large parts of Kashmir. All telecom operators had been asked to suspend services in the Valley on Friday. Cable TV operations were also suspended the same evening, but restored later on Saturday. The only mobile service functional in the valley is Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, and the only internet connectivity is the BSNL broadband service, even that was asked to shut its operations later in the day.
According to a Greater Kashmir report, “Policemen seized the plates of Greater Kashmir and more than 50,000 printed copies of [Urdu daily] Kashmir Uzma and closed down the printing press.”
Printing press KT Press, which prints many newspapers, was also raided and shut down, its owner Raja Mohi ud Din was quoted as saying in a report on Kashmir Life. Police seized “newspaper copies which were printed in thousands, besides printing material, and printing plates of a few newspapers…also have been taken away by police,” he claimed, adding that his staff were detained by police.
The raids were not only limited to printing as the distribution of newspapers was also targeted, “We were readying to distribute the newspaper that police men from Budgam police station seized the newspaper copies,” a staff member of the Rising Kashmir was quoted as saying.
Hawkers were seen waiting near Lambert Lane near Regal Chowk, another major newspaper distributing hub. The policemen suddenly stopped their jeep at the spot and searched for the newspapers. Only those newspapers which had escaped the police scanner, or had not reached the distribution point at the time of raid, escaped confiscation and may have subsequently reached some readers, it is being speculated.
Editors and owners of newspapers based in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday condemned the crackdown on media in the state, calling it an “attack on the freedom of press”. They vowed to “fight back” against the restrictions.