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Newspapers chose not to print, says Abdullah

As several media offices resumed functioning on Thursday after a gap of four days, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said there was no ban imposed on publication of newspapers but the dailies had chosen not to print as curfew had made distribution impossible.

‘There is NO ban on newspapers in Kashmir. Papers are choosing not to print because restrictions make delivery of newspapers impossible,’ Omar wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter.com.

‘If there was a ban, then it would have extended to their Internet editions as well which are regularly being updated,’ he said. He said the newspapers will resume publishing once the restrictions are eased. ‘As the restrictions ease the newspapers will resume publication because the problem isn't with printing. It's with them being unable to (distribute),’ he said.

‘And those continuously going on about a ‘government gag’ would be well advised to produce a single copy of this gag order,’ he added. Newspapers hit the stands on Thursday after a gap of four days.

PCI chairperson Markandey Katju had written to Abdullah saying a short term restraint order on publication of newspapers may be justified in the wake of Afzal Guru's execution, but will be unreasonable if it goes on for a long time.

Earlier Katju had apprised Omar that he had been receiving emails stating that newspapers are not being allowed to be published or distributed in Kashmir besides curb on mobile and internet services. ‘My own thinking in the matter is this: no freedom can be absolute, and hence press freedom under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution can also not be absolute, but is subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest vide Article 19(2),’ the Press Council Chairman wrote in his letter.


‘CENTRE CAN NOT INTERVENE IF STATES RESTRICT MEDIA’


With the four-day gag on newspapers in Kashmir Valley coming under criticism, union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari Thursday said the centre could not intervene when a state government imposed curbs on media.

‘Freedom of expression is a constitutional right. It is the responsibility of the central and state governments to protect this right. However, states have the exclusive powers to maintain law and order. The question plays out within these two remits, and it is difficult territory,’ Manish Tewari said.

‘In states affected with insurgency, left wing extremism, or separatist movements, there is a law and order problem. The state government has to decide on imposing restrictions, how far can the centre step in? The states have to handle the situation on the ground,’ he said.
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