Media orgs condemn sealing of Kashmir Times, eviction of journalists by JK Govt

ITANAGAR, Oct 21: Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and Indian Journalists Union (IJU) have condemned and questioned the sealing of Kashmir Times newspaper office in Srinagar and eviction of journalists.

The RSF said that it is appalled by the sealing of the newspaper and eviction of the journalists.

The eviction was carried out by representatives of the Jammu and Kashmir’s estates department, who arrived unannounced, expelled the newspaper’s employees without presenting any justifying documents, and then placed seals on its entrance, it said.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had been renting the premises to the newspaper since 1993, as it does to other media outlets based in Srinagar’s so-called “press enclave.”

Bhasin said she was evicted in a similar manner a few weeks ago – without being served any cancellation and eviction notices – from the apartment the government had allotted to her in 2000.

“The arbitrary way the Kashmir Times’ journalists were expelled from their office is extremely shocking,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“The Jammu and Kashmir administration no longer even bothers to provide a legal facade to the actions it takes to attack the free press. We ask India’s supreme court to intervene in this flagrant violation of Article 19 of the constitution.”

India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

The NWMI has condemned the targeting and harassment of Anuradha Bhasin, editor of one of the oldest English daily newspapers published in Jammu & Kashmir, Kashmir Times.

Bhasin has been critical of the Government of India’s tough policies in Kashmir, including the curbs on communication and muzzling of the press since August 2019, when two special laws pertaining to Jammu & Kashmir, Articles 370 and 35-A, were unilaterally revoked. As a journalist, she has been very vocal about several policies and actions of the central government, both in Kashmir and across India, it said in a statement.

Bhasin had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court last year demanding the restoration of modes of communication and the initiation of necessary steps for ensuring the free and safe movement of journalists and media personnel in the region. In response to the petition the Supreme Court had in January 2020 directed the administration in Jammu & Kashmir to review the curbs on communication every week and ensure free speech. It is important to note that that in the wake of her petition, Kashmir Times stopped receiving advertisements and has been experiencing severe financial strain, it said.

The IJU has also condemned the arbitrary sealing of The Kashmir Times office in Srinagar without any notice.

The union viewed the J&K authorities’ action as “clearly vindictive” and demanded that till the due process of law is applied the office be desealed in the interest of fair play and justice.