Srinagar: The Jammu & Kashmir administration Wednesday sought income tax records of the last three years from editors of local newspapers.
While the announcement was described as an annual exercise by officials of the state Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR), editors said it had caught them by surprise.
The DIPR, which is entrusted with highlighting the activities of the administration through print and electronic media, also allocates government advertisements to local newspapers.
The announcement was made by a state official as journalists and other media professionals worked at the media centre established by the state government in August.
The media centre helped journalists file reports even as the Valley remained under a communications lockdown between the first week of August and mid-October. It was initially established in the conference room of a Srinagar hotel, but was shifted to the DIPR main office this week.
The official said the journalists employed with local newspapers should inform their editors to furnish their income tax returns for the past three years to the DIPR.
Before the announcement, the official asked if those present in the room were members of the “print media”.
‘Don’t know the exact reason’
The editor of a local English daily told ThePrint that this was “the first time income tax returns are being sought from us”. “We don’t know the exact reason,” the editor said.
A second editor said they were yet to get official communication in this regard.
“Whatever was conveyed was only verbal. We haven’t received any written communication,” the editor added. “We can only find out what this is all about when we get a written communication.”
DIPR officials, however, insisted that the documents were being sought as part of a routine exercise.
“We deal with newspapers and there is no truth in claims that the DIPR is seeking income tax records for the first time,” a senior DIPR official said. “We do this every year.”
Refuting the argument, the editor of a Urdu daily said the DIPR should produce communications from previous years to prove this had been done before. “This is the first time they are asking for income tax returns. We have been told that we should submit the details by Friday,” the editor added.
A local journalist employed with a Kashmir-based newspaper said the move was a “fear tactic”. “The state administration wants to intimidate the local press here. That is what this is about,” the journalist added.
The announcement came on a day when J&K Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh thanked the local media for their “responsible reportage” since the erstwhile state’s special status was scrapped 5 August.