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Media locked down as one more dies in Kashmir violence

By Sarwar Kashani

Srinagar : A civilian was killed in a clash with police on Saturday as the Jammu and Kashmir government cracked down on newspapers published here and blocked cable TV, creating an information blackout amid tight security restrictions for the ninth day in the Kashmir Valley.

A police spokesperson said “stray and intermittent incidents of stone pelting” protests erupted at many places in north Kashmir. A mob attacked a police post in Hatmulla village of Kupwara district, some 100 km from here.

“While dealing with the situation three people were injured. One of them succumbed to his injuries,” the spokesperson said, taking the toll to 42 in the current street unrest that has engulfed the valley.

Suspected militants in a south Kashmir village shot at and injured two persons, including a relative of an arrested aide of Wani, police sources said.

In an apparent bid to stop local newspapers from reporting about the unrest, the government issued an undeclared gag against the media.

Journalists at a meeting of newspaper editors and owners termed “it as an attack on the freedom of press and vowed to fight back at all costs”.

They said in a statement that they spoke with the government but a spokesman told them that “a strict curfew” will be imposed in the next three days” following “apprehensions of a serious trouble aimed at subverting peace” in the Valley.

In this situation, the government spokesman told Srinagar-based editors that the “movement of newspaper staff and distribution of newspapers will not be possible”.

They strongly condemned this ban and termed it “reprehensible”.

As a result of the crackdown, most Srinagar-based newspapers couldn’t go to print and copies of those already printed were seized at midnight and early morning raids on their printing presses, the publishers said.

Abdur Rasheed, the circulation manager at Kashmir Images, told IANS that a police party came in civvies and raided the daily’s printing press on the city’s outskirts around 1.30 a.m. on Saturday.

“They asked us to stop the printing machine immediately. And took away some 1,500 printed copies of an Urdu daily (that prints from the Kashmir Images press),” Rasheed said.

The policemen also took away printing plates of the English daily. “The police told us that the gag is for three days and the press should remain closed till then.”

Bashir Manzar, Editor of Kashmir Images, said the gag on the media would lead to street rumours getting “terribly dangerous in the current Kashmir situation”.

“By gagging the local press, you (government) are blocking your own channels of communication. How will you reach out to the people now?” he asked.

Other newspaper publishers said on their web editions that employees working for their printing presses were also arrested.

“Policemen seized the plates of ‘Greater Kashmir’ and printed copies of ‘Kashmir Uzma’ (Urdu daily) and closed down the printing press,” according to a report on the website of Greater Kashmir, one of the largest circulated English dailies in the Valley.

Another English daily, Rising Kashmir, had finished printing its edition and was about to be circulated when some policemen raided its distribution site, it said on its web edition.

The Kashmir Times press, which prints many Urdu and English dailies has also been locked down.

Cable TV was snapped on Friday evening. Mobile phone internet connectivity has also been cut in the valley since the July 8 killing of the 22-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani.

The only mobile service functional in the valley is Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and the only internet connectivity is the BSNL broadband service.

The militant’s death triggered an unprecedented wave of violence across the valley that has left over 40 dead.