Srinagar: The ruling PDP-BJP government on Monday again did not specify the reasons for banning Kashmir Reader for three months and simply repeated District Magistrate’s orders that said the newspaper’s content “could have incited acts of violence and disturb public tranquillity”.
Replying to a question by independent MLA Er Rashid, seeking reasons for ban on Kashmir Reader, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said: “The order (banning Kashmir Reader) was passed by the District Magistrate Srinagar on the basis of credible inputs that the said newspaper was observed to be publishing such material and contents that could easily cause incitement of acts of violence and disturb public tranquillity in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, and District Srinagar in particular.”
The District Magistrate Srinagar, she said, in exercise of powers vested under Section 144 of CrPC, read with Section 3 of the Newspapers Incitement of Offences Act 1971 and Section 10 of the Press and Publications Act, 1989, vide his order No. DMS/ Jud/ 214/16 dated 30.09.2016 prevented the Printer, Publisher and Owner of the Kashmir Reader from printing and publishing of the newspaper till further orders.
“The order was passed by the District Magistrate Srinagar by invoking section 144 of CrPC which remains enforceable for a period of two months only, and as such the order has lapsed on 30.11.2016. No further extension in terms of Section 144 of CrPc has been ordered. Therefore no restriction/ban is in force on the Kashmir Reader,” she added.
The ban on Kashmir Reader was widely criticised, both in national and international media. A prominent journalist had termed the government’s act akin to “pulling a Public Safety Act” on the institution.
“When you do not have concrete proof, you prepare a vague chargesheet and jail a protestor under the Public Safety Act that provides for arresting and jailing a person without trial on mere suspicion. That is exactly what they have done to Kashmir Reader,” the journalist had said in his reaction to the ban.
“Both India and Pakistan rank abysmally among democracies in the World Press Freedom Index. India ranks 133rd out of 180, and Pakistan ranks 147th. The governments of both countries clearly have lines that journalists should not cross, and which most do not cross for fear of repercussions,” Washington Post concluded in a report referring to ban on the daily newspaper Kashmir Reader and episode involving Cyril Almeida, a columnist and reporter at Dawn, Pakistan’s most prominent English-language newspaper, who was put on the “Exit Control List,” a roster of those forbidden from leaving the country.
In an editorial, Deccan Herald had said that bans on newspapers and media channels, censorship and other methods are against the spirit of democracy and a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression.
“Governments in Kashmir have resorted to all these methods in the past. The ban on Kashmir Reader was imposed arbitrarily,” it said.