The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to lift the three-month ban on Srinagar-based Kashmir Reader – a prominent English newspaper that was banned amid the unrest triggered after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.
“In a high-level meeting of the government, it was decided to revoke the ban. The formal orders have to be issued by deputy commissioner Srinagar,” joint director (headquarters) of the information department, Abdul Majid Zargar, said.
The paper was barred from publishing on October 2 by the government blaming it of publishing material that “tends to incite acts of violence and disturb public peace and tranquillity”. The officials, however, did not specify the content that prompted them to invoke the ban.
Srinagar deputy commissioner had served a notice to the newspaper asking its printer, publisher and owner to abstain from printing till further orders so that “disturbance of public tranquillity is prevented”. The notice threatened to forfeit the printing press and other properties if the orders were not complied with.
“Director information spoke to our bureau chief and said we can resume our publication. We hope press would be allowed to function independently,” Hilal Mir, editor of the Kashmir Reader told News18.
Reports quoted the director of information, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, as saying that a formal order about the lifting of the ban on the newspaper would be issued in a day or two.
Choudhary told The Indian Express that Kashmir Reader had made a representation to the government and sought permission to resume publication.
“The case was examined and the government was satisfied that there was no further need to disallow its publication,” he told the Express.
The paper was stopped from publishing at the time when the government was struggling to bring normalcy to the state where over 88 persons lost their lives and thousands more were injured in the spiralling violence after Wani’s death.
The Kashmir Reader published many stories on the alleged atrocities and high handedness of the security forces during the unrest. It also became very popular online for its extensive coverage of the victims of the violence.
The decision shocked and angered the journalistic fraternity of the valley. Journalists protested multiple times over the government’s decision and the editors of Kashmir’s prominent newspapers also met chief minister Mehbooba Mufti over the issue.
The Editors Guild of India also issued a statement questioning the ban.
Kashmir Reader, with a circulation of over 5,000, was minimally dependent on ads from the government, unlike most newspapers, but was backed by a business house.
Apart from not being able to report or write, the 30-odd core employees of the newspaper and scores of others involved in peripheral activities – such as hawkers, printing presses and drivers – faced immense uncertainty and more importantly, a financial constraint.