The Network of Women in Media, India, (NWMI) has strongly condemned the continued targeting and harassment of Anuradha Bhasin, editor of Kashmir Times, one of the oldest English daily newspapers published in Jammu & Kashmir. “We stand in solidarity with her at this difficult time,” the NWMI, representing media women from across the country issued a statement of solidarity with Bhasin, after the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times newspaper was sealed by the Estate Department of the Jammu & Kashmir administration on Monday, October 19. As reported earlier the building of Kashmir Times is located in the city’s Press Enclave area, along with many other media houses, all of whom have been allotted spaces here for decames. The Kashmir Times has had its office here since the early 1990s.
Editor Anuradha Bhasin has described the action as “vendetta for speaking out” on her social media post, after the second official address allotted to her was ‘raided’ and ‘sealed’ by the Estates Department. She had stated on her social media that the office was locked up “without any due process of cancellation and 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!”
The NWMI cited an Bhasin’s words that while the government has the right to evict an allottee, there are certain criteria and they have to follow due process. The Network has stated that “Bhasin has been critical of the Government of India’s tough policies in Kashmir, including the curbs on communication and muzzling of the press since August 2019, when two special laws pertaining to Jammu & Kashmir, Articles 370 and 35 A, were unilaterally revoked. As a journalist, she has been very vocal about several policies and actions of the central government, both in Kashmir and across India.”
Bhasin had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court last year demanding the restoration of modes of communication and the initiation of necessary steps for ensuring the free and safe movement of journalists and media personnel in the region. In response to the petition the Supreme Court had in January 2020 directed the administration in Jammu & Kashmir to review the curbs on communication every week and ensure free speech.
According to NWMI, “It is important to note that in the wake of her petition Kashmir Times stopped receiving advertisements and has been experiencing severe financial strain.
Bhasin has spoken out strongly against the new Media Policy of the Jammu & Kashmir administration, announced in June 2020, pointing out that “it straitjackets the local media. The attack on Kashmir Times is yet another example of how the administration seeks to punish independent media while favouring pliant media.”
The statement added that “the deliberate targeting of Bhasin and other journalists in Kashmir through different means reveal the continuing intimidation of journalists in the erstwhile state (demoted to a union territory last year), who have been reporting under extremely difficult circumstances, despite severe restrictions on access to the Internet. This is totally unacceptable and condemnable.”
The NWMI has demanded that the authorities “stop harassing and thereby attempting to silence critical voices. Journalists, including Anuradha Bhasin, must be allowed to work freely, without being intimidated or under the constant threat of being summoned or booked under stringent laws that leave little room for the pursuit of justice.” The Network has also demanded that “the office of Kashmir Times be restored to the organisation and that the personal belongings of Anuradha Bhasin that were not handed over to her when she was unceremoniously evicted from the residential premises she was lawfully using be returned to her.”
Scores of journalists from across the country have stood up in solidarity with Bhasin, who had earlier told SabrangIndia that she will take legal recourse to address this.
The Delhi Union of Journalists has also condemned the actions of the government which it states are “clearly aimed at stifling the free press.” The DUJ stated that this “comes on the heels of the arbitrary eviction of the Kashmir Times Editor Anuradha Bhasin from her residence. We note that Kashmir Times journalists were not permitted to take out their computers and other professional equipment before the eviction. Editor Bhasin has said that the eviction happened without due legal process and she will challenge it in court.
The DUJ notes “with alarm the growing intimidation of the media across the country through various means” and has condemned “among others the violent attack on veteran journalist Kamal Shukla in Chhattisgarh on September 26, 2020 and the arrest of Ramesh Rath of Odisha Television on October 15,2020.” It added that it was “dismayed at the increasing political nature of such actions and the impunity enjoyed by those who instigate, order or commit attacks.”