Rights group, journalists condemn closure of Kashmir’s oldest newspaper

A Kashmiri man reads a newspaper in Srinagar on Feb. 28, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 20 October 2020

Rights group, journalists condemn closure of Kashmir’s oldest newspaper

  • Local estates department sealed the office of Kashmir Times on Monday saying it no longer had the right to occupy the premises
  • Editor Anuradha Bhasin says authorities shut down the office without following due process or serving eviction notice

NEW DELHI: An international media rights group and journalists in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday condemned the closure a day earlier of a bureau of Kashmir Times (KT), the oldest newspaper in the disputed valley.
On Monday, the local estates department sealed the office of Kashmir Times, located in the Press Enclave of Srinagar. The department has not commented officially on why the office was shut down but officials have told media the owner of the building had died and KT no longer had the right to occupy the premises.
“We condemn the ongoing targeting and harassment of @AnuradhaBhasin_ and the Kashmir Times,” the Committee To Protect Journalists tweeted on Tuesday, referring to the editor of The Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin. "Authorities must stop trying to silence independent and critical voices and should respect press freedom.”
On August 5, 2019, the Indian government stripped Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of its autonomy, and imposed a crippling curfew and communications blackout and arrested dozens of local politicians.
Kashmir Times editor Bhasin, who had filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court challenging the cutting off of internet and telephone lines in the region, said authorities had sealed the paper’s office without giving prior notice.
“Without following any due process or serving any eviction notice, the estate department officials came and asked the people working inside to come out and locked the office," she told Arab News.
A few weeks ago, Bhasin said, she had been evicted in a similar fashion from her government-allotted residence in Hindu-majority Jammu.
“The administration not only evicted me without any notice but handed over my belongings to a new allottee,” she said.
“Why we are being targeted is because we continued to maintain the tradition of maintaining independence despite our sagging finances and constraints," Bhasin said. "We have continued to speak critically of the government’s policies and actions."
KT's closure follows a similar incident on Saturday when the local administration sealed the office of a leading news agency of the region, the Kashmir News Service.
Sehrish Asgar, chief of Kashmir’s department of information, did not reply to several calls and text messages from Arab News seeking comment. The estates department also declined comment on the record but one official, who requested anonymity, said:
“The building that we sealed was in the name of Ved Bhasin, and he expired four years ago. Since this building was allotted in someone else’s name, the government cancelled the allotment in the normal process … we served the notice in July itself and it is not an abrupt sealing.”
The Srinagar-based Kashmir Press Club (KPC) called the move a “vendetta” by the government against media in Kashmir.
“The actions are a clear vendetta against independent journalists and media houses. They don’t want media and independent voices to function freely,” Ishfaq Tantray, KPC general secretary, told Arab News.
KT was first established as a weekly in 1954 and became a daily newspaper in 1964, with two million subscriptions in the region currently.
Bhasin said the government had stopped posting advertisements in Kashmir Times since August last year in retaliation against the paper’s “challenge of the internet ban in the apex court.”
The paper thus had to shut down its print edition in both Jammu and Srinagar and had “paid the price" for being the "voice of the people,” she said.
Fahad Shah, editor of the Srinagar-based web magazine Kashmir Wala, said he had been questioned by authorities several times in recent months for his reportage in what were ongoing attempts to muzzle the press.
“This is just another way of intimidating the press,” he said on the closure of KT’s office.


CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

Updated 27 November 2020

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

  • The US has some 700 troops training Somali forces and carrying out raids against Al-Shabab militants
  • Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters

WASHINGTON: A CIA officer was killed in combat in Somalia in recent days, US media said Thursday without releasing details of how the agent died.
The veteran officer was a member of the CIA’s Special Activities Center, a paramilitary branch that carries out some of the US intelligence agency’s most dangerous tasks, The New York Times said.
The officer died of injuries sustained during an operation last week, according to CNN.
The CIA has not commented publicly on the death.
Washington has some 700 troops deployed in Somalia carrying out training of Somali forces and conducting counter-terrorism raids against the Al-Shabab militant group, which Washington designated a terrorist movement in 2008.
Earlier this month, Washington put on its terror blacklist the leader of an elite unit of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group blamed for a January attack in Kenya that killed three Americans.
Al-Shabab is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters who have vowed to overthrow the Somali government, which is supported by some 20,000 troops from the African Union.
The slain US operative was a veteran of special forces operations, having previously been a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, the Times reported.
The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing all US forces from Somalia by the time he leaves office in January, the paper added.
At the start of his term, Trump gave the Pentagon a freer hand to expand their operations, with both air strikes and ground raids, in the war-ravaged African country.
But an official report released in February said that “despite continued US air strikes in Somalia and US assistance to African partner forces, Al-Shabab appears to be a growing threat that aspires to strike the US homeland.”