New Delhi: The oldest English broadsheet newspaper in the Northeast — The Shillong Times — has been temporarily shut down for allegedly violating Covid-19 health protocols.
In a note to its readers, the 75-year-old newspaper said it will not hit the stands from Sunday.
“After 75 years of service, we got the stick from the government for alleged violation of health protocol,” the note said. “This means that ST will not hit the stands from August 23 onwards.”
The note said the paper’s building, located in Shillong, has been declared a containment area after three non-journalists tested positive for Covid.
“Despite all the protocols being in place, an official order picked holes where there was none,” it said. “We will miss a beat each day that our voice remains stifled at the cruel hands of law that cannot even be challenged for a judicial remedy.”
The note added that the newspaper will be back soon “because we still have a lot of fire in the belly and all of you as our abiding inspiration”, the note stated.
It, however, did not say by when the newspaper plans to start publishing again.
Took all precautions, says editor
Talking to ThePrint, The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim said she found out late Saturday night that the office area had been declared a containment zone.
“Our staff had not returned from testing, so we could not bring out the issue today,” she said. “We will take a call today on when we can restart the paper. By this week, we may start the editions online.”
She said the organisation has taken all Covid-19 protocol measures such as instituting sanitisers and putting in place handwashing spaces among others.
“If one or two people had tested positive, how can you stop the functioning of a newspaper office without waiting for the results of the rest of the staff?” Mukhim asked.
ThePrint has reached M. War. Nongbri, the Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills district who signed the government order, though a text message for a comment. This report will be updated when a response is received.
Not following Covid protocols: Govt
The government order issued Saturday said all staff quarters in the specific identified location share a common entrance and all protocols of social distancing wearing of face masks and all sanitisation were being violated.
“The RT PCR results of high-risk contacts tested yesterday and today are still awaited,” it said.
The order added that it was necessary to declare the office building and staff quarters of The Shillong Times as a containment area so as to restrict unregulated entry and exit movement on site with certain measures for compliance by the public.
“This includes not moving in and out of the containment area, inhabitants not leaving their homes within the area among others,” it added.
The newspaper was in the news last year when the Meghalaya High Court held editor Mukhim and publisher Shobha Chaudhuri guilty of contempt and imposed on them a fine of Rs 2 lakh each.
She, however, received a reprieve from the Supreme Court.
Last month, a village council in Meghalaya filed a complaint against Mukhim, alleging that her comments on Facebook about an attack on five boys in Lawsohtun village could incite communal tension. Mukhim had in her post had criticised the Lawsohtun village council for failing to identify the perpetrators of the attack on five boys.
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