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Outcry after Kashmir Times office sealed – india news

Jammu and Kashmir authorities have sealed the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times, one of the region’s oldest and most prominent English-language newspapers, the publication said on Tuesday. Political parties and journalists criticised the move, but the state’s estates department said the premises were not being used as an office, but as a residence by the newspaper’s employees.

The action came a week after a house allotted to Anuradha Bhasi, executive editor of the newspaper, in Jammu was re-allotted to the brother of a former legislator by the Jammu and Kashmir Estates Department.

“Today, Estates Deptt locked our office without any due process of cancellation & eviction, same way as I was evicted from a flat in Jammu, where my belongings including valuables were handed over to ‘new allottee’,” wrote Bhasin,52, on Twitter on Monday.

“Vendetta for speaking out! No due process followed. How peevish!,” she added.

Bhasin has been a vocal critic of the government over curbs imposed on communications when the Centre on August 5, 2019, pushed through constitutional changes divesting Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution, and reorganising the state into two Union territories 0– J&K and Ladakh.

She filed a petition in the top court demanding restoration of communications and measures to ensure the free and safe movement of media personnel. It was because of her petition that the court in January directed the administration of Jammu and Kashmir to review curbs on communications every week.

On its website, the newspaper wrote that its office in a government building in Press Enclave that houses several other newspaper offices was “sealed without serving any cancellation or eviction notice to Kashmir Times or following any due process of law.”

“The Estates Department employees who came to the office to lock it out told the Kashmir Times staffers working inside to move out. When the Kashmir Times management asked for the orders, the Estates Department officials said that they had no orders and asked them to approach the senior officers instead,” it said in a news report.

Mohammad Aslam , deputy director of the Estates Department, said the newspaper was occupying two premises in Press Enclave, one of which was taken over by the department “amicably”.

He said the premises that were taken over had been allotted to the late Ved Bhasin, founder of Kashmir Times and father of Anuradha Bhasin, in his individual capacity and after his death in2015, its allotment had expired and was cancelled.

“Their office is running in another quarter while this quarter was not in the name of Kashmir Times. It was being used for residential purposes by its employees and we requested for its vacation some two-three months back. Yesterday, they themselves handed over the facility,” he added.

Political parties and journalists came out in support of Kashmir Times and Anuradha Bhasin.

Former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbboba Mufti wrote on Twitter: “Anuradha was one of the few local newspaper editors in J&K who stood upto GOIs {government of India’s} illegal and disruptive actions in the state. Shutting down her office in Srinagar is straight out of BJPs {Bharatiya Janata Party’s} vendetta playbook to settle scores with those who dare to disagree.”

Another former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter:: “This explains why some of our ‘esteemed’ publications have decided to become Government mouthpieces, printing only government press handouts. The price of independent reportage is to be evicted without due process.”

A group of 11 journalists offered their professional services free to Kashmir Times to support its editorial team in sustaining “the paper in these difficult times”.

“We are aware that Kashmir Times, and its editor, have been at the forefront of fighting against government curbs on communications and press freedom in Kashmir, especially post August 5 clampdown last year, when the majority of the local press was found wanting in reportage, choosing silence over speaking truth to power.”

“In view of these government-sponsored intimidation attempts to silence an independent newspaper, we express our solidarity and support to its editors and our colleagues there,” the journalists said in a statement.

The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) said it regretted the sealing of the Kashmir Times office.

“The Guild sees the sealing as the continuation of an abnormality being enforced on Kashmir media for a long time, especially since 2010. In the last 10 years, successive regimes have created a very unpleasant history as for as operations of the media in Kashmir is concerned. Preventing circulation of newspapers, blacklisting the newspapers from getting government advertisements in Srinagar and Delhi, and interrupting negatively in the routine operations have adversely impacted the media. These are in addition to the issues that reporters face on a daily basis while gathering information, “ it said in a statement.

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