Why major newspapers of Kashmir published blank front page?

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SRINAGAR | GR News Desk

Major newspapers in Kashmir Sunday published blank front pages in protest against unexplained denial of government advertisements to two newspaper in the valley, Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader.

The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) had earlier sought the attention of the Press Council of India and the Editors Guild to exercise their legal, ethical and professional mandate to intervene in the issue and ensure that the media was not strangulated.

Reacting to the step taken by newspapers, former CM Mehbooba Mufti said, “Greater Kashmir is one of the most popular local dailies of J&K. Centre’s decision to stop ads to it should be viewed in context of their attitude towards press & electronic media in general. Kowtow to their warped agenda & sing praises. Or else suffer.”

Meanwhile National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, “A development that has got almost no coverage outside of the valley. The government is attempting to choke the media by denying them advertising revenues. I hope the Centre & State immediately reverse this decision of trying to silence the forth estate.”

KEG also organized a protest at Press Club Srinagar during the day.

Two major newspapers, Greater Kashmir (GK) and Kashmir Reader (KR), have been on life support for more than two weeks, ever since the J&K government began withholding all advertising from them.

No official explanation has been given for the decision, as the private sector is very weak, the media depends largely on public sector ads.

The government reportedly stopped advertisements to these two newspapers a day after the February 14 attack in Pulwama in which at least 40 CRPF men lost their lives.

In 2018, Press Council of India had issued a detailed report about issues and challenges that the Kashmir media is facing, addressing certain misconceptions about the media in the report.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement also condemned the move. “The government must restore state ads and treat all Kashmiri publications equally,” RSF said.

“Targeting two newspapers in this completely arbitrary manner clearly constitutes an act of crude intimidation,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“The authorities have no right to harass the publications they dislike with the aim of imposing their own version of the facts. Amid a surge in tension in the Kashmir valley, it absolutely vital that newspapers should be able to cover the situation in a completely independent manner, especially as press freedom is an essential condition for defusing tension.”

There are many examples of how press freedom has been one of the leading collateral victims of the growing tension in the Kashmir from past few years.