MLAs Decry Censorship1 October 2010
Srinagar: The confiscation of newspaper copies and prevention of their distribution Friday dominated the lower House of State Legislative Assembly with several legislators condemning the government move and terming it as “interference in the right to express”. Minutes after the session started, National Panthers Party leader Harsh Dev Singh, CPI (M) leader and MLA Kulgam M Y Tarigami, independent MLA from Langate, Sheikh Abdur Rashid and Peoples Democratic Front leader Hakeem Muhammad Yasin strongly condemned the seizure of newspapers and prevention of their distribution. “It was very unfortunate to see hawkers being harassed and newspapers being stopped from distribution. We have every right to know what is happening. We strongly condemn this act. This should not happen,” the NPP leader said, adding that there should be no interference in the right to express. Tarigami said government should immediately talk to editors and sort out their grievances. “Strict administrative measures would only add fuel to the fire. This is not the solution. I strongly condemn the seizure of newspapers,” he said. Stating that police has been harassing hawkers and in the wee hours not a single newspaper was allowed to be distributed, MLA Langate asked, “How can the government justify this?” PDF leader Hakeem Yasin said National Conference patriarch Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah ensured freedom of press “and it was painful to see the government headed by his grandson putting a ban on newspapers”. ”I appeal the government to lift all restrictions on newspapers and allow the smooth distribution of newspapers,” he said. Responding to the concern expressed by the legislators, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told the House that there was no direction from the government for stopping distribution of newspapers. “Some members raised the issue that police raided the printing press and offices of various newspapers. I got worried and sought details about the issue from the Director General of Police about the issue. I came to know that no printing press was raided by police nor was any newspaper office raided. “I have been informed that two vehicles carrying news print had been stopped at the Kothibagh Police Station in the early morning for checking the print material to avoid circulation of any inflammatory matter. I have been informed that this was done to prevent any untoward incident owing to the court verdict regarding Ayodhya,” he said. He said when nothing inflammatory was found on the newspapers both the trucks were later released. The chief minister also regretted the hindrance faced by the journalists to reach the Assembly. “I personally feel that nothing of that sort should have taken place. The step was totally unwarranted. I apologize for this and the strict restrictions which prevented journalists from reaching the Assembly,” the CM said. “We will ensure smooth distribution of newspapers. I have asked the DGP to submit a report why newspapers were stopped from distribution,” he added.