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Newspapers run blank front pages in Kashmir

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  Protesting against denial of govt advt to two dailies…

Srinagar, Mar 10: Most of the leading dailies in the Kashmir Valley printed a blank front page on Sunday as a mark of protest against the "unexplained denial" of advertisements to two newspapers by the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The Kashmir Editors' Guild (KEG) said last month that the State government stopped giving advertisements to two major local dailies -- Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader.

"With utmost regret, the Kashmir Editors' Guild wishes to inform that the Jammu and Kashmir government has stopped state government advertisements to two major daily newspapers -- Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader," it had said in a statement, adding that the decision was neither conveyed formally nor was any reason detailed to the respective publications.

As a mark of protest, the leading dailies here -- both English and Urdu -- printed a blank front page on Sunday.

The front pages of these newspapers only carried a message from the KEG -- "In protest against the unexplained denial of government advertisements to Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader."

The KEG put the newspapers on display at Srinagar Press Club where its executives talked to the media as well.

“KEG regrets the continued silence of the administration over the unexplained denial of the government advertisements to two newspapers of Kashmir – Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader,” KEG general secretary Bashir Manzar said.

“In the last 15 days, we had repeatedly asked the government to, at least, indicate the reasons for the puzzling decision but we have not been fortunate in getting even an iota in this regard.”

He said the intervention has the potential of impacting the state and status of journalism in Kashmir.

“We consider the decision against democracy and in violation of the free media that is guaranteed by the constitution,” he added.

Interestingly, the decision has been taken at a time when one of the elaborate electoral exercises in India is about to start. The Guild, he said, has already moved to the Press Council of India and has intimated the Editors Guild of India as well.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir’s two former Chief Minister’s Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have thrown their weight behind the Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) demand.

In separate tweets, both have demanded immediate revocation of the order banning government advertisements to Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader.

Taking to Twitter Omar wrote: “A development that has got almost no coverage outside of the valley. The government is attempting to choke the media by denying them advertising revenues. I hope the Centre & State immediately reverse this decision of trying to silence the fourth estate.”

“Greater Kashmir is one of the most popular local dailies of J&K. Centre’s decision to stop ads to it should be viewed in the context of their attitude towards press & electronic media in general. Kowtow to their warped agenda & sing praises. Or else suffer,” Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.

The tweets from two senior leaders of two major political parties came within hours after the Kashmir newspapers published with their blank front pages in protest against, what KEG says, “unexplained” decision.

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