Kashmir Reader – Srinagar based English newspaper – failed to hit market on Thursday after J&K Government banned its publication on Sunday, Oct 2nd 2016. The government in its order issued by Deputy Commissioner Srinagar has said that “publication of Kashmir Reader can disturb peace” – a charge refused by its editor.
Kashmir based Journalists continued their protest today against the ban. Scores of scribes held protest march in Lal Chowk from Mushtaq Ali Enclave (Press Colony) up to historic Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) where they held a sit-in protest.
Holding placards, the scribes asked government to “come clear” on the ban.
Addressing protesting journalists at Mushtaq Ali Enclave, veteran Journalist and former BBC North India bureau chief, Altaf Hussain termed the ban on Kashmir Reader as “stain on the face of the policy makers”.
“It is the weakness in the PR (Public Relations) system of the government that local press has become victim,” he told the media personnel holding sit-in protest.
“Either they (government) should shut all the Kashmir press or give us rights that a democracy and free press demands,” Hussain demanded.
Hailing the work of Kashmiri Journalists, he said, “one who reports in a difficult situation like Kashmir can work in any part of the world.”
“The difficulties,” he said, “we (Kashmiri Journalists) have faced earlier and that we are facing now is difficult for truthful and fair reporting and some have given their lives too for standing for truth.”
Hussain said that media ‘gag’ in Kashmir “is usual”, however, he said, “banning a newspaper without any prior notice is disgusting and condemnable.”
Stressing on unity among the Journalists, he said, “on this occasion, we have to fight back at both individual and collective level.”
Ridiculing the government’s move to ban a newspaper, Hussain said, “press cannot stop telling truth even if someone gets irritated.” But, he cautioned the working Journalists “to report truth”.
Recounting his experiences while reporting from Kashmir in 1990s for Times of India (ToI), Hussain said, “my editor was complained by PMO and Home Ministry officials against my (News) reports.”
“But,” Hussain said, “my editor asked them to complain in writing which they never did. He stood by me because I was true in my (news) reports.”
“Later,” Hussain added, “a J&K official told me that my editor was told many a times that the reporting by Altaf Hussain is against national interest.”
Quoting the unnamed J&K official, Hussain said, “my editor has replied to such complaints: national interest is all right but we can not suppress facts.”
“We hope (that) good sense prevails,” he said, “and government will favour itself by lifting ban on the Kashmir Reader and makes sure that such mistakes are not committed in future.”