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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Omar denies media gag; editors disagree

Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, February 13, 2013
First Published: 19:30 IST(13/2/2013) | Last Updated: 00:44 IST(14/2/2013)

As local newspapers in the Valley were allowed circulation after three days, chief minister Omar Abdullah has denied that there was any media gag. However, ban on Internet services continued for the fifth consecutive day on Wednesday.

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Dozens of local newspapers in the Valley had stopped publishing on Sunday, when hawkers and printing press owners were issued veiled threats to stop circulation. "Men in uniform gave us 'friendly advice' on Saturday not to print newspapers for it might go waste," said a senior editor of a local daily in Srinagar.

Another "friendly advice" came on Tuesday, asking newspaper owners to resume printing. Only online editions of newspapers were functional in the past three days.

Coming under criticism from Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju, Omar on Wednesday refuted the charges of any official ban on newspapers. "There is no ban on newspapers in Kashmir. Papers are choosing not to print because restrictions make delivery of newspapers impossible," Omar wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.

He said in case a ban had been imposed on newspapers, it would have been extended to their Internet editions as well, which was not the case. "As the restrictions ease, newspapers will resume publication because the problem isn't with printing, it's with them being unable to (distribute)," he said.

"And those continuously going on about a "government gag" would be well advised to produce a single copy of this gag order," he added.

The newspaper owners and hawkers complain that police restricted their movement on Sunday in an attempt disrupt circulation and kept constant vigil on printing presses.

It was because of these allegations that Markandey Katju had written to chief minister Omar Abdullah, saying restraint order on publication of newspapers may be justified in the wake of Afzal Guru's execution, but will be unreasonable if it goes on for long.

Meanwhile, thousands of Internet subscribers continue to suffer because the authorities have stopped the services of all cellular companies. "I had to apply online for chartered accounts exams but could not do it. The last date is February 29. Hopefully, the government will restore the services by then," said Waqar Ahmad, a student.


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