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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Was there media gag in Kashmir? Omar says no, editors say yes

Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, February 13, 2013
First Published: 20:26 IST(13/2/2013) | Last Updated: 20:29 IST(13/2/2013)

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

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Dozens of local newspapers in the valley stopped printing 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 the newspapers were functional in the past three days.

Coming under criticism from Press Council of India chairman Justice that 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, the 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 have to apply on-line for chartered accounts exams but could not do it. The last date is 29th of this month. Hopefully, the government will restore the services," said Waqar Ahmad, a student.


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