The ban on 'Kashmir Reader' newspaper was least expected after the State Government backed off from its recent attempt to muzzle the local press following the widespread condemnation from across the world.
But as another similar bid reveals, the government is in none the wiser for it and in no mood to give up. This time though only one paper has been banned, it hardly detracts from the troubling larger import of the move.
It shows the Government is willing to take extreme measures against the freedom of press in the state on very flimsy and arbitrary grounds. Kashmir Reader has been banned because the Government in its wisdom thinks "the content of this newspaper can incite violence and disturb peace". It isn't however that everything is hunky-dory with the other newspapers.
Over the past three months, Government by drastically reducing the advertisement share has made it increasingly unsustainable for newspapers to carry on their work. More so, at a time when local newspapers are the only source of the news for the people in the absence of the internet.
Greater Kashmir and its sister publications like Kashmir Uzma and their Jammu based editions have already been deprived of DAVP ads since 2008 and the state government ad share has also been reduced to a trickle. Hardly ever have we faced such an all out bid to curtail our freedom and the capacity to operate, not even in the nineties, or for that matter during 2008 and 2010 mass upsurges. The situation has become unsustainable by a sharp dip in the corporate advertisements due to the prevailing situation. At one level, this seems unthinkable from a government, one of whose coalition partners would go to great lengths to cultivate a media-friendly image in opposition.
But again, this is one more stark instance which highlights the traditionally irreconcilable stances in opposition and in power of the Valley-centric parties. This hasn't, however, dampened our spirits. Like the Government which would stop at nothing to limit the free flow of information, we too haven't given up in our resolve to stand by our people.
The growing financial difficulty in no way detracts from our commitment to our people and our responsibility to report faithfully and objectively the existing extraordinary state of affairs.