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10-05-2010, 06:44 AM
Jammu & Kashmir: Indian police seize newspapers, thrash scribes


In yet another crackdown on media, [Indian] police on Monday seized the copies of several dailies including Greater Kashmir and its sister publication Kashmir Uzma and barred their distribution even as three senior journalists were roughed up by policemen in the city.

The issue rocked the Legislative Assembly following which Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sought apology from the media fraternity saying though the incident should not have happened he has sought a detailed report from the police chief within 24 hours.

Reports said police here seized several vehicles carrying newspaper copies of different publications for distribution across the Valley early in the morning. The seized vehicles were taken to Kothibagh police station and released later in the day when distribution was not possible.

As the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly started today, several legislators including MY Tarigami, Hakeem Yasin and Engineer Rashid raised the issue accusing the government of curbing press freedom using repressive tactics.

�This is the result of excessive use of force which ultimately becomes illegitimate, worsening the situation. At any cost government should ensure freedom of press, otherwise stopping the flow of information and news to people could prove dangerous,� said Tarigami.

Responding to the queries raised by the legislators, the chief minister said there were no directions from government to police to seize the newspapers.

He, however, added quickly that police seized the copies as there were apprehensions that newspaper reports and articles about Ayodhya verdict might be inflammatory and could evoke protests in Valley.

He refuted the contention that raids were conducted on printing presses and offices of newspapers.

�I have been informed that two vehicles carrying newspapers had been stopped at the Kothibagh Police Station early morning today for checking the print material to avoid circulation of any inflammatory matter.

However, the vehicles have been allowed to move after making the necessary checking. I have been informed that this was done to prevent any untoward incident owing to the court verdict regarding Ayodhya,� the chief minister informed the House.

�I personally felt that such an action was not needed. But I will get it ascertained why the copies were seized. I have asked Director General of Police to report to my office on the issue in next 24 hours,� the chief minister said. �I seek an apology from the media persons if the action has lead to any inconvenience to them.�

He also regretted the hindrance faced by the journalists to move around and to reach the Assembly due to heavy checking. �We have to impose restrictions and curfew sometimes to protect the lives and public property. They (journalists) may have to bear with this for few more days.�

The issue came up in the Upper House also wherein the members demanded that a government committee should be set up to assess the losses to different publications and media institutions and provide compensation to them.

�Despite valid curfew passes allotted by the government, the media persons are thrashed by the forces. In number of cases several media persons got injured due to beating by security forces and their equipments were also damaged,� said Bashir Ahmad Margay, Congress MLC.

Ironically, while the chief minister was speaking in the Lower House, three senior journalists- on way to the Assembly to cover the proceedings-were beaten up by police.

Mehraj-ud-din of an international media organization, APTV, Mufti Islah and Shakeel-ur-Rehman of New Delhi-based channel, CNN-IBN, were beaten up near Rambagh despite having curfew passes.

Mehraj-ud-din was admitted to Bone and Joint Hospital Barzulla wherefrom he was referred to SKIMS.