Eighteen days after a total communications blackout preceded the “lockdown” in Kashmir, the Valley’s leading English language newspaper Greater Kashmir is gasping for breath.
Thanks to the blockade of fixed lines, mobile phones and the internet, Greater Kashmir‘s website has not been updated for more than two weeks now, and the last available e-paper is dated 5 August 2019.
Four weeks before Kashmiris were turned into prisoners in their own homes, Greater Kashmir editor Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo and Rashid Makhdoomi, a functionary at the paper, were picked up by the National Investigation Agency for questioning.
Kaloo’s “interrogation” in a three-decade-old case involving a Urdu newspaper editor, went on in the NIA headquarters in Delhi for a week, without support from his compatriots, according to a report in The Telegraph.
Several days after the blackout began in Kashmir and the Eid holidays ended, Greater Kashmir, usually a 16-page newspaper, published a truncated four-page edition, as reporters could not send stories in the absence of an internet connection.
Also, the printed paper could not be distributed due to restrictions on movements of vendors.
With shops and stores shut due to the curfew, retail advertising, always a trickle in the Valley, plummetted, and most newspapers have to peddle propaganda to receive government advertisements.
Accused of “indulging in anti-national actions inimical to the security interests of the country” by the Union home ministry, Greater Kashmir has been repeatedly denied government advertisements, the lifeline of newspapers in the Valley.
The paper’s management is reported to have slashed the salaries of staffers due to theenormous revenue pressures. But the “lockdown” , it appears, has dealt a body blow.
So far, no Indian media body—not the Press Council, nor the Indian Newspaper Society, nor the Kashmir Editors Guild—has spoken out against the threat to livelihood of newspaper industry workers. Or the information blackout.
The Editors Guild of India issued a feeble, boiler-plate press release.
Update: In The Telegraph, Calcutta, its Srinagar correspondent Muzaffar Raina has a piece on the excruciating circumstances under which Kashmir’s newspapers are operating.
Fighting for survival, he writes, Kashmir’s newspapers are looking like government bulletins, printing the previous evening’s official briefing as the lead story.
There’s no space for stories of suffering and outrage; criticism has disappeared. A leading daily ran two health pieces on its edit page on one day.
Literally, an utter sad state of affairs in the context of Freedom of Press and Freedom of Speech, all in the name of national security…