Top newspapers in Kashmir on Sunday published empty front pages in protest against the government’s ban on advertisements to two leading dailies. Here is a special report.

On Sunday, March 10, both the dailies along with other prominent  Urdu and English newspapers part Kashmir Editor Guild, a body of editors and owners, published blank front pages with a message; “In protest against unexplained denial of government advertisements to Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader”.
The government, without any formal order, had imposed a ban on its advertisements to widely read Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader. The Guild had condemned the ban in an earlier statement.
Day after the February 14 Pulwama deadliest blast in which 40 CRPF soldiers were slain, the government stopped advertisements to the dailies without any reason. The Guild on March 8 said they had requested the authorities to at least offer then a reason for why the advertisements were stopped, without intimation and reason. Yet it didn’t yield any response.
Beset with armed militancy and tension between India and Pakistan, this region is facing crippling economy. The ban may severely affect media outlets in practicing journalism while hitting livelihood of journalists as well. As it is, journalists in Kashmir face a difficult task, battling censorship and repression in equal measure.
Due to lack of well established corporates  in the region, newspapers solely rely on government advertisements and it ensures a reasonable revenue to sustain papers. In return, papers publish the government’s daily press handouts showing its activities. In fact, the ban has started making an impact –  Both Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Reader trimmed pages. While the 20 page edition of Greater Kashmir priced has reduced to 12 pages, similarly Kashmir Reader has cut four pages and published 12 paged edition since then.
“The ban has deprived the two publications of the rightful revenue stream and has started hurting the state and status of journalism in Kashmir,” the Guild said.
It was learnt the editors body approached local political parties but they expressed helplessness. The state is directly under New Delhi’s control because of Governor rule’s in the state since July last year after the fall of PDP-BJP government.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement condemned the government’s unconstitutional move. RSF Daniel Bastard, Head of Asia-Pacific Desk pointed to the endangering the financial viability of the newspapers by depriving them of all state advertising. “The government must restore state ads and treat all Kashmiri publications equally,” RSF said.
Meanwhile, the Guild alongside journalists will assemble in Kashmir Press Club today afternoon to protest against the ban.


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