Authorities in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have banned the publication of a local newspaper, saying that its contents could incite violence in the troubled region.
The English daily ‘Kashmir Reader did not publish for the second straight day on Tuesday, following a government order over the weekend for its owner to halt publication.
The order, handed down by police officials to the newspaper's office, said the paper's contents are ‘of such nature that can easily cause incitement of acts of violence and disturbance of public tranquility in the state.’
Kashmir is witnessing its largest protests against Indian rule in recent years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers. The protests, and a sweeping security crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in the Himalayan region.
According to the state government, it sent the newspaper a notice a week ago questioning some items it had published, saying they could disturb public order.
However, Hilal Mir, the newspaper's editor, said that his paper was not given any prior notice or an opportunity to explain its stand.
Rights group Amnesty International said the ban was a ‘setback to free speech’ and called on authorities to revoke the order.
The ‘order does not specifically mention any news items in Kashmir Reader that incited violence,’ said Aakar Patel, who heads the Indian chapter of Amnesty International. ‘This vaguely-worded shutdown order suggests that the newspaper is being targeted for its reporting.’
In July, the government shut down printing presses and temporarily banned newspapers from publishing for three days in a sweeping information blackout after days of anti-India protests. The officials had said the government action was aimed at saving lives and strengthening peace efforts.
Local newspaper editors had denounced that ban.
On Tuesday, Kashmir's most widely circulated newspaper, ‘Greater Kashmir,’ said in a front-page editorial that the latest ban shows that the government is willing to ‘take extreme measures’ to muzzle the press.
More than 80 civilians have been killed and thousands injured in violence related to the ongoing protests, with government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets at rock-throwing protesters. Two policemen have also been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favour independence or a merger with Pakistan. A militant uprising and subsequent Indian military crackdown have killed more than 68,000 people since 1989.
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