SRINAGAR: Describing free and vibrant media an essential pillar of democracy, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, on Wednesday urged the ‘Fourth Estate’ to play a responsive and proactive role in tiding over the enormous challenges facing Jammu and Kashmir and its people.
The Chief Minister said this while interacting with the editors of the local dailies here this afternoon to discuss resumption of publications and other issues confronting the local media in view of the prevailing law and order situation.
Minister for Education and the State Government Spokesman Naeem Akhtar, Advisor to Chief Minister Amitabh Mattoo, Director Information Zubair Ahmad, and Media Consultant to J&K Govt Syed Suhail Bukhari were present in the meeting.
The Chief Minister said the state government is committed to independence of media at all costs and complaints of highhandedness against the press, if any, amid prevailing situation will be looked into.
“Though there has been no deliberate attempt on part of the government to impose any restrictions on the publication of newspapers, however, whatever has happened, because of some communication gap, is regrettable,” the Chief Minister said, adding it will be looked into.
Mehbooba, who also holds the charge of Information Department, assured the editors that the government would facilitate, to the maximum extent possible, smooth movement of the journalists and other newspaper staff to ensure that they can perform their professional duties in a hassle-free manner.
She sought the cooperation of all the stakeholders including the media in facilitating return of peace and calm in the state and preventing further loss of lives and destruction of properties.
She said media’s credibility is its biggest asset and it should try to maintain the same at all costs, especially amid difficult situations like the one Kashmir is presently embroiled in.
Speaking at the meeting, Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, reiterated that he had last week told some media-persons that the government may be forced to impose strict curfew in Kashmir in view of the prevailing law and order situation and it may result in restricting the movement of all sections of the people including journalists and the staff associated with newspapers.
A press statement from owners and editors said delegation interacted with the Chief Minister and explained the entire situation that started with the police raids on the printing presses on Friday night. Police seized all the printed material and the plates and also arrested the printing staff to ensure that the newspapers are not reprinted.
Later, in the day on Saturday, senior most spokesman of the government, also a cabinet minister, conveyed that “the government was imposing strict curfew for three days to prevent efforts aimed at subverting peace, during which movement of newspaper staff and the distribution of newspapers will be impossible”, it said.
Editors ceased publications immediately in wake of the restrictions imposed on the movement of staff and distribution of newspapers.
In the meeting with a delegation of editors, Chief Minister gave detailed presentation of the happenings that led to media related crisis. She strongly regretted and apologized for the situation that was created by a law and order related decision unintended at newspapers.
Chief Minister assured that her government will not hamper the functioning of the media at any level and will look into the incidents that have taken place.
The editors who later met in a meeting considered the government response and decided to resume publications from today hoping the resumption will remain unobstructed.
The editors take this opportunity to reassure the society that the decision to suspend publication was involuntary. The fraternity, however, had not gone on a holiday and was working, and recording every single incident in last five days.