KT suspends print editions temporarily

Kashmir Times. Dated: 3/24/2020 11:54:39 PM

Pandemic challenge makes it imperative for the govt to restore internet, compensate for losses

Information is vital for the very existence of humankind. A democratic and civilized world order requires that citizens remain informed to know what is happening around them, in their countries and in other parts of the world, to know what their governments are doing or not doing for them so as to to make them accountable. This underscores the significance of newspapers in the daily lives of humans. In every situation of crisis, the role of newspapers becomes even more important as it becomes the essential link between the rulers and the ruled, bringing on one platform the actions of the government and the voices of the public. In the last over six decades including the extremely difficult years of conflict, we have tried to keep our publication going so that our readers could be kept abreast of information that they need from time to time. However, in view of the Coronavirus outbreak and the fact that newspapers which pass through a chain of people from the production to the doorsteps of the people can carry contagion, Kashmir Times has suspended the publication of its print edition, both in Jammu and Srinagar, with effect from March 23. It will continue its online edition to maintain the tradition of keeping its readers informed. However, this task is limited by the fact that several of our readers will continue to remain in the dark – those who are not well versed with the online culture and those remain deprived of internet connectivity for the last over seven months. Though internet connectivity has been fully restored in Jammu, it is still partially available in Kashmir Valley where pre-paid mobile connectivity is still barred and the post-paid mobile connectivity is still put on 2G mode which rarely works in an age of 4G. The last seven months of communication blackout, which has impacted many lives, has been extremely challenging for the press which faced an existential crisis but continued to bring out publications, despite major losses due to the impacted circulation and the government choosing to crackdown on them by withdrawing advertisement support. The reporters were forced to work from the congested and inadequate space in the Media Facilitation Centre to ensure that the cycle of telling stories and informing public is not fully broken. After the restoration of broadband lines about a month ago, while many journalists have been able to work out of their offices, some who do not have that privilege continue to work out of Media Facilitation Centre where their entire work is under surveillance.
It is even more senseless now, in the face of a major pandemic, that these restrictions continue, making it impossible for reporters and sub-editors to work from home, even as the government and medical practitioners are advising that ‘work from home’ be encouraged everywhere. Immediate and complete internet restoration is imperative for ensuring better safety norms, allowing people including media persons to work from home and reach out to their online readership. This is one of the basic minimum that the government is expected to do other than compensate for the losses the media industry has faced in the last seven months. As more and more newspapers may be forced to close down their print editions due to the pandemic, many hawkers and non-staffers connected with the business will be rendered jobless. It is thus incumbent upon the government to ensure that all those (including and not restricted to newspaper hawkers) who are dependent on daily wages and are likely to lose their livelihoods due to a prolonged lockdown, depriving them of basic essentials of life, are supported with food rations and economic package so that they can sustain themselves. The Jammu and Kashmir government has announced free supply of rations for two months but given no information on how this is going to be supplied amidst a stringent lockdown. It is hoped that a more systematic mechanism is set in place to ensure an effective supply line so that people are not pushed to starvation while protecting themselves from the pandemic.



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