As the tension in Kashmir shows no sign of abating, mobile and internet services continued to remain suspended for the eighth day on Sunday while trains were also off the tracks in the valley as a precautionary measure. What is more worrisome is that the state government seized newspapers and shut down cable television channels on Saturday.
This blackout of the fourth pillar of democracy is raising concerns as the government clamped down on the press, and people in the valley are now relying on rumours.
Police seized copies of major Urdu and English newspapers in the Kashmir Valley creating an information blackout. The printing plates of ‘Greater Kashmir’ and more than 50,000 printed copies of ‘Kashmir Uzma’ (Urdu daily) were seized by the police. Cable TV operators in Srinagar were also asked around 11pm on Saturday to stop the service.
While many major newspapers are complaining about the government’s action against media, a Jammu and Kashmir government minister has a different version saying, the clamp-down was necessitated as Pakistani channels that are beamed through cable television network in the valley were spreading their propaganda. The minister argued that some local newspapers were also sensationalising the violence.
State government spokesman and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar said the measures were aimed at saving lives and strengthening peace efforts. Newspaper editors in Kashmir have attacked the government branding the action as “enforcing emergency on media.”
While the government was successful in preventing the distribution of print newspapers, news websites continued uploading news onto their websites. A protest march was also held in Srinagar late on Saturday by editors and journalists carrying placards reading “Stop censorship” and “We want freedom of speech.” It is said that newspapers will not be published till July 19.