Srinagar: Kashmir’s trade and industry organisations as well as mainstream political leaders have condemned the J&K Government’s move of stopping advertisements to daily newspapers Kashmir Reader and Greater Kashmir, calling it an attempt to muzzle the free press.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said that the government was trying “to interfere in the freedom of the press by exerting financial pressure”.
A spokesman of the KCCI said that stopping advertisements was a “futile attempt to manipulate the news narrative.”
He said it was unfortunate that the government was resorting to arm-twisting tactics. “The media has been discharging their duties in very difficult circumstances and has always maintained the highest ethical and professional standards. The press community is being targeted for their neutral and unbiased reporting,” the KCCI said in a statement.
“The right of our people to access accurate, fair and unbiased information, representing a plurality of opinions, seems to be under threat. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right as stated in Article 19 (of the Indian Constitution) and any attempt to violate it is condemnable,” the KCCI said.
Kashmir Economic Alliance Chairman Haji Muhammad Yasin Khan, who also heads the Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation, appealed to the government to resume advertisements to the two newspapers “in the interest of free media”.
“Kashmir media has been playing a significant role and we stand by them in these uneasy times reflective of attempts to muzzle voice of common people,” Khan said.
National Conference leader Ali Mohammad Sagar, while addressing a rally of the party in Lal Chowk Srinagar, also condemned the government’s move.
“The party (NC) stands for freedom of thought and the reported move of government to stop government ads to major dailies of the state, Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader, is condemnable. It is tantamount to shooting the messenger. The decision should be rolled back. Decisions like these do not augur well for a democratic set-up and will unarguably affect the livelihood of scores of people associated with the dailies,” Sagar said.
CPI (M) leader and former legislator Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami described the decision of the government to stop advertisements to Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader as unfortunate. He said that authorities should ensure that the media in one of the most sensitive states in the country is not strangulated.
“The government has a duty to respect the freedom of the press, and the right of people to receive information. It cannot stop advertisements simply for being critical of the government,” said Tarigami in a statement.
“A negative intervention in this situation is clearly aimed at slaying the institutions of media,” he added.
Former trade union leader and PDP leader Abdul Qayoom Wani said that stopping ads to famous newspapers of the state, Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader, will have negative impact on journalism and journalists of Jammu and Kashmir.
In a statement, Wani said that the press being the fourth pillar of democracy needs a free and fair atmosphere for highlighting public issues in the larger interests of society. Wani urged upon the government to reconsider the decision of stopping ads to these newspapers. He said that media houses have a big role in shaping the society and any type of mishandling will have negative impact on journalism in particular and society in general.