Srinagar: In a uniquely heart-warming moment for the journalist fraternity of Jammu and Kashmir, a battery of prominent journalists has come forward to offer free services to The Kashmir Time — a local daily whose office was Monday sealed by authorities, without serving a prior notice of cancellation or eviction.
In a statement shared by one of the volunteering journalists, Mir Hilal, the group said that it has decided to render free professional services do the daily to somewhat help it sustain in these “difficult times”.
“There are renewed attempts by the state agencies to throttle [The] Kashmir Times, a respected newspaper in both Jammu and Kashmir regions with a rich history of practicing independent journalism,” the statement said.
“In its latest move, the government agencies have sealed the paper’s Kashmir office, which would further curtail its publication and distribution in Kashmir. Recently, editor Anuradha Bhasin’s government allotted accommodation in Jammu was also ransacked,” the statement reads.
The group said that they are aware that Kashmir Times, and its editor, has been at the forefront of fighting against government curbs on communications and press freedom in Kashmir, especially post August 5 clampdown last year, when the majority of the local press was found wanting in reportage, choosing silence over speaking truth to power.
The group further said that given these “government-sponsored intimidation attempts to silence an independent newspaper”, they express their solidarity and support to the editors and colleagues working with the newspaper.
The journalists who have initially volunteered to be a part of the team include Athar Parvaiz, Gowhar Geelani, Hilal Mir, Muzamil Jaleel, Riyaz Wani, Naseer A Ganie, Samaan Lateef, Tariq Mir, Najeeb Mubarki, Majid Maqbool, Nayeem Rather, Umar Maqbool and Shams Irfan.
The group said that they will like to “extend an offer of devoting some work hours, for free, every day to support the Kashmir Times editorial team which can somewhat help sustain the paper in these difficult times.”
“We remain, as ever, in solidarity with Kashmir Times,” the statement added.
With more journalists offering their services after the statement came, the list is expected to grow further. Like one Junaid Nabi Bazaz who, while sharing the statement, offered to contribute one story a week as his share, and Jehangir Ali who offered himself to be counted in.
“I am ready to contribute one story, a week! This is too little, but it will keep me sane inside that I am not dead! Anuradha Bhasin mam!,” Bazaz wrote.
“This solidarity campaign is open to all journalists from J&K. Anyone wanting to volunteer and work for free to keep Kashmir Times going as media institution is welcome to join. We will keep adding names as and when we have them,” Gowhar Geelani, another prominent journalist who is part of the volunteering team, wrote on Twitter.
Earlier on Monday, the Estates Department sealed the office of The Kashmir Times at Press Enclave. No reasons were, however, given for the government action.
The office was earlier alloted to the newspaper in a government building but has been sealed now with the owner claiming that the due process of law was not followed.
The English daily is headquartered in Jammu and but published from both Jammu and Srinagar — the two capitals of the Union Territory — and is one of the oldest newspapers in the region.
The newspaper owner, Anuradha Bhasin, claimed that no notice of cancellation or eviction was served on them and “nothing in writing” was given to them.
The move attracted wide condemnation by journalist fraternity and beyond. Reporters Sans Borders (RSF) and Asia chapter of The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also denounced the government action.