Kashmir unrest: Information blackout as police crack down on media

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Srinagar, July 16 (IANS) The Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday cracked down on all Urdu and English newspapers published from here and blocked cable TV, creating an information blackout amid continuous tight security restrictions for the ninth day in the restive Kashmir Valley.

As a result of the crackdown, most Srinagar-based newspapers couldn’t go to print and copies of those who had printed their editions were seized at midnight and early morning raids on their printing presses, the publishers said.

Abdur Rasheed, the circulation manager at Kashmir Images, told IANS that a police party came in civvies and raided the Srinagar-based daily’s printing press on the city’s outskirts around 1.30 a.m. on Saturday.

“They asked us to stop the printing machine immediately. And took away some 1,500 printed copies of an Urdu daily (that prints from the Kashmir Images press),” Rasheed said.

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The policemen also took away printing plates of the English daily. “The police told us that the gag is for three days and the press should remain closed till then.”

Bashir Manzar, Editor of Kashmir Images, said the gag on the media would lead to street rumours getting “terribly dangerous in the current Kashmir situation”.

“By gagging the local press, you (government) are blocking your own channels of communication. How will you reach out to the people now?” he asked.

He said it was “ridiculous” to ban the Kashmir press in this information age when the entire world, including India, was talking about free speech and free media.

Other newspaper publishers said on their web editions that employees working for their printing presses were also arrested.

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“Policemen seized the plates of ‘Greater Kashmir’ and printed copies of ‘Kashmir Uzma’ (Urdu daily) and closed down the GKC printing press,” said a report on the web site of Greater Kashmir.

“(The) authorities gagged the Greater Kashmir by raiding (its) corporate office. Police arrested the Greater Kashmir Printing Press foreman Biju Chaudary and two other employees,” said the newspaper, one of the largest circulated English dailies in the Valley, on its website.

The daily said police seized the plates of Greater Kashmir newspaper and took away more than 50,000 printed copies of its Urdu edition Kashmir Uzma. Its printing press has also been closed.

Another English daily, Rising Kashmir, had finished printing its edition and was about to be circulated when some policemen raided its distribution site.

“They later reached Press Enclave and seized a vehicle (loaded with printed copies),” the daily said on its web edition.

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Kashmir Reader alleged that eight people who had been detained were later arrested. Copies of the daily were seized from the Kashmir Times press, which also prints Urdu daily Tameel-e-Irshad and reputed English dailies like Kashmir Observer and The Kashmir Monitor.

Cable TV was snapped on Friday evening. Mobile phone internet connectivity has also been snapped in the valley since the July 8 killing of the 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani.

The militant’s death triggered an unprecedented wave of violence across the valley that has left over 40 people dead.

The only mobile service functional in the valley is Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and the only internet connectivity is the BSNL broadband service.



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