SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Kashmir has nearly 180 English and Urdu daily newspapers, but only five are publishing these days due to restrictions imposed by Indian authorities to prevent unrest after New Delhi revoked the state’s autonomy.
That is frustrating for the region’s journalists, many of whom are veterans of covering a long insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and operating under prolonged curfews.
“This is the biggest story of our generation and we haven’t been able to report it,” said Faisul Yaseen, associate editor of Rising Kashmir, one of the handful of newspaper groups that is still publishing.
With phone lines and internet services suspended, six newspaper editors and journalists told Reuters they have no way to access wire reports or any outside online news sources, their district correspondents, and seek comment from government officials.
Only five newspapers out of 174 dailies are now publishing, according to newspaper distributor Mansoor Ahmed, and they are being distributed within a 5-km radius of Lambert Lane, the main newspaper hub of the region, because of severe restrictions on movement, he said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed the blackout after it stripped Kashmir of its special status this week and broke up the state into two federal territories aiming to fully integrate the Muslim majority region.
Officials said restrictions will slowly be lifted. The big concern is there could be large scale demonstrations against the decision to withdraw Kashmir’s special rights to frame its own laws and lifting of a ban on people from outside the region buying property.
An Indian foreign ministry spokesman said there was no restriction on the press.
“Nobody has been prohibited or stopped from publishing anything. Now, because of logistical constraints if they are not able to publish it is a different matter,” the spokesman said.
Usually a 12-page edition, the Rising Kashmir English daily is now only bringing out four pages, much of it sourced from a few national TV news channels and four reporters who have living and working from Rising Kashmir’s office.
The final layout of the paper is hand-delivered to the press on the outskirts of the city in the evening when movement restrictions in some parts are slightly relaxed.
Two other Rising Kashmir newspapers – one in Urdu, another in Kashmiri – that the group publishes are suspended.
Within Srinagar, reporters and photographers are finding it difficult to work without any passes to go through security checkpoints.
Editors of two Urdu newspapers in Srinagar said they had ceased publication because of a lack of news sources, movement restrictions, and staff being unable to reach the newsroom.
“Even in the worst of times, the press were given curfew passes,” said Morifat Qadri, executive editor of the Daily Afaaq, which usually prints 4,000 copies daily.
“They don’t want that anybody covers the current situation,” he said.
Additional reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in NEW DELHI; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Angus MacSwan