IOK: 48 dailies made ineligible for govt ads

SRINAGAR (AA): Authorities in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir have dropped 48 newspapers from a panel that makes periodicals eligible to run government advertisements, officials said Saturday.

While 10 dailies have been struck off the panel completely, eight others were suspended temporarily in Kashmir, Haris Handoo, joint director of information, told Anadolu Agency.

He said those that have been dropped temporarily could be added back on the panel if they adhere to government-mandated rules of, for example, on regular publishing and meeting required copy numbers.

The newspapers that were dropped from the panel completely now have to file a completely new application, he said, adding that many of them had flouted these rules.

In Jammu province, 30 newspapers have either been dropped from the panel completely or suspended temporarily.

Local newspaper owners have in the past criticized similar moves by the Indian government as a form of censorship by denying dailies with revenue from government ads.

In the run-up to Aug. 5, 2019, when India scrapped the region’s autonomy, advertisements were denied for several months to two major newspapers, Greater Kashmir and the Kashmir Reader. Both dailies had been critical of the state’s policies. In 2016, the Kashmir Reader was banned from publication for three months.

The Jammu and Kashmir government last year introduced a controversial “media policy,” in which it announced that its department of information and public relations would conduct a “background check” of every publisher, editor and reporter before their media outlet was granted “empanelment,” meaning official approval that makes a publication eligible for government advertisements.

“Any individual or group indulging in fake news, unethical or anti-national activities or in plagiarism shall be de-empaneled besides being proceeded against under law,” the new policy says.

In June, Reporters Without Borders, an international press advocacy group, urged India to immediately withdraw its “new media policy,” saying it handed unimpeded powers to authorities.

The policy allowed Indian officials to harass journalists and media through judicial action, as well as economically, if they “published content it doesn’t like,” it said in a statement, describing such conduct as “prior censorship.”