Srinagar: Authorities on Monday sealed the office of a prominent daily The Kashmir Times without serving a prior notice of cancellation or eviction, PTI reported.
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.
“Our office in Srinagar was locked without any due process of law. No notice — whether of cancellation or eviction — was served to us, PTI quoted Bhasin as saying.
She said they had heard murmurs about the government planning to evict them from the building at the Press Enclave a month back, but there was no formal communication from the Estates Department.
“We had approached the Estates Department and asked them to please serve us the order, but they gave us nothing. Then we approached the court, but no order has been given even there,” Bhasin said.
She said the locking up of the Srinagar office of the newspaper was something similar to her recent eviction from a flat in Jammu.
“The government has the right to evict an allottee, but there is a certain criteria and they have to follow the due process,” she said, adding that, however, the due process has not been followed in her particular case.
“The day I went to court last year, that very day, the state government advertisements to Kashmir Times were stopped,” she said.
Ms. Bhasin termed the move as vendetta against her for speaking out against the government and moving the Supreme Court against media restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir after the Centre abrogated Article 370 in August last year.
“Today, Estates Dept locked our office without any due process of cancellation & eviction, same way as I was evicted from a flat in Jammu, where my belongings including valuables were handed over to ‘new allottee.’ Vendetta for speaking out! No due process followed. How peevish!,” Bhasin tweeted.
“We seem to be living in a land where no queries get a reply and no actions are explained. Not even an eviction notice. But the reasons are pretty evident. No?, her another tweet read.
“A govt policy to reserve 5 percent quota of govt accommodation for certain categories including journalists is a matter of right. It would be favour if the journalist chooses to become silent to enjoy the benefits. They can lock the building, not our voice,” she added.
Reporters Sans Borders (RSF) termed the act an attack on press freedom.
“The office of The Kashmir Times, one of the most respected newspapers of the region, has just been sealed by the local govt after its editor Anuradha Bhasin was recently manhandled. @RSF_inter is appalled by this new attack on press freedom in the valley,” it said.
The Asia chapter of The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the move urged the authorities to stop silencing “independent and critical voices” and “respect press freedom”.
“We condemn the ongoing targeting and harassment of Anuradha Bhasin and the Kashmir Times. Authorities must stop trying to silence independent and critical voices and should respect press freedom,” CPJ Asia said in a tweet.