ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Shooting the Messenger

The gag on expression in J&K attempted to criminalise the media

Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal writes:

On 16 July, the post-midnight knock by policemen at the door of newspaper offices in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was not a case of simple intimidation. It was a calculated and brazenly undemocratic step to gag the press in a manner that is reminiscent of the Emergency with the explicit aim of muzzling voices. Printing material and newspapers were seized and technical staff arrested before the crack of dawn. The divisional commissioner, whom editors met, pleaded helplessness. J&K People’s Democratic Party (PDP) minister Nayeem Akhtar said that these measures had been taken in anticipation of trouble after the 8 July killing of a militant commander, Burhan Wani. How does an assault on the freedom of expression ensure calm in volatile Kashmir? Three days later the chief minister’s adviser, Amitabh Mattoo, claimed that there was no ban on the media and that it had been a mistake committed by an overzealous police officer against whom action had been taken. However, this belated statement does little to put to rest the ambiguity of the government’s stand. Many believe the officer became a scapegoat in a damage control exercise. Newspapers resumed publication on 21 July after an assurance from Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed.

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