Representational image | Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg
Representational image | Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg
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Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has de-empanelled 34 newspapers and suspended advertisements to 13 publications for violating norms of circulation and other publication guidelines. Notices have also been issued to 17 other news publications for “alleged plagiarism” and “poor content”.

According to government officials, the decision was taken on 7 December after a four-month-long exercise was conducted to verify and examine the workings of dozens of newspapers in the Union Territory. The UT administration said it had been receiving complaints of alleged malpractice and violation of the advertisement policy against these organisations from within the media fraternity.

The notices to the 17 publications asked the news organisations to adhere to the standard of new media policy unveiled in June 2020, under which the government examines the content of print, electronic and other forms of media for “fake news, plagiarism and unethical or anti-national content”.

Official documents which ThePrint accessed show that the committee also took a lenient view that newspapers that could not publish their issues regularly during the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020.

“Despite that, many news publications were indulging in malpractice and providing wrong information about their circulation. Action against news publications has been taken after due diligence and a four month long hectic exercise conducted by the Committee constituted by the Government,” said a government official requesting anonymity.

“The publications, since 2017-18, had indulged in clear violation of advertisement policy and had tried to deceive the authorities on matters ranging from their circulation, ownership and quality of publications,” the official added.

Among the publications facing action are Rising Kashmir, Galaxy News, Kashmir Images, and Apna Jammu.

The government’s Empanelment Committee, constituted on 15 May 2020 and comprising senior officials of the Finance Department and Directorate of Information and Public Relations, took the decision.


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‘Malpractice by newspapers’

A J&K administration official told ThePrint that the government action is not based on the size or name of the newspapers but due to alleged malpractice.

A second official said providing wrong information about circulation, misinformation about real ownership and content being produced, quality of the paper (colour newspapers get more government funds), plagiarising content from the internet or other newspapers were some of the alleged violations that came to light during the investigation.

Among those de-empanelled in Jammu division are lesser known newspapers such as Naweed, Dainik Kashmir Times, Swarn Samarika, Sharda, Jammu Prabhat and Height of Life. Other newspapers such as Hill People, The Earth News, Apna Jammu, Zameer-e-Khalq, Galaxy News, Lok Shakti and Nai Roshni received notices on issues such as adoption of new media policy, and quality and quantity of newspapers.

“At many places, such as newspaper stands and vendor shops, our teams conducted raids and checks to check circulation of papers, and we found out the newspapers only existed in government records. There were others which only printed one copy to be sent to the Information Department,” said a government official privy to the investigation.

According to data with ThePrint, there are 164 empanelled publications in Kashmir, including newspapers, magazines, weeklies and fortnightlies. These included 41 English dailies, 59 Urdu dailies and 56 English and Urdu weeklies.

In Jammu, there are 248 empanelled publications, including 84 English dailies, 31 in Urdu, 24 in Hindi, 14 multilingual (Hindi/Dogri) weeklies, 37 Urdu weeklies and 30 English weeklies.

So far, 24 news publications were de-empanelled in Jammu, 17 were served notices to adopt the new media policy 2020 and ads to five have been suspended.

In Kashmir, 10 newspapers have been de-empanelled and advertisements have been suspended for eight others.

Vigorous News, State Monitor, and Trade and Jobs were among those de-empanelled by the government for falsifying circulation numbers. In Kashmir, the presses for eight newspapers, including, Wadi Gulpish, Sadaqat-e-Rehbar, Haq Nawaz, and Sad-Rang Sehar were stopped.


Also read: 2019 communication blackout, Pakistan — why 2020 saw spike in Kashmir youth joining militants


‘People in media for personal interest, affects rest of us’

Among the better known publications to have been de-empanelled are the Jammu edition of Kashmir Images, for not providing a single edition since January 2018. Similarly advertisements were cancelled for the Jammu edition of Rising Kashmir for not sending copies of the paper to the Joint Director office since 2019 December.

Shoaib Hameed, managing editor of Rising Kashmir, told ThePrint, “As of now, I am not aware of our office receiving any form of communication, so it won’t be appropriate to comment on the issue. I heard of this through social media.”

ThePrint also reached Bashir Manzar, editor of Kashmir Images, via his mobile phone but did not receive any response till the time of publishing this report.

Mohamad Ismail, owner of Jammu-based Aaj Ki Jung, said that his papers operations suffered due to the communication blackout enforced ahead of the scrapping of Article 370 as well as in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But we are trying to resume 100 per cent operations and are hopeful that we will be empanelled again,” he said.

Arshid Rasool, owner of Daily Gadiyal, said, “There are some businessmen who have entered the field of journalism for personal interest. Even some government employees who run newspapers. It is because of some people that journalism in Kashmir got a bad name. We end up getting effected by their misdeeds,” Rasool said.

(This report has been updated to specify which newspapers in the Jammu division were de-empanelled and which received notices.)


Also read: Why Kashmiris, Palestinians are left pondering what realism, better governance could’ve brought


 

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