Kashmir woke up to blank editorials in newspapers today in memory of #ShujaatBukhari

Rising Kashmir also published a note of gratitude on the front page thanking its readers and all those who expressed their grief and solidarity.

WrittenBy:Majid Maqbool
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Putting up a united front in a telling protest against the recent killing of Kashmiri journalist and Rising Kashmir Editor-in-Chief Shujaat Bukhari by unidentified gunmen in Srinagar, prominent newspapers of the Valley carried blank editorials on Tuesday after resuming publication following Eid holidays. Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Times, Kashmir Reader, Kashmir Observer, apart from Rising Kashmir, published a uniform blank editorial with black margins on the edit pages.

Bukhari was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on June 14 when he stepped out of his office at Press Enclave. One of his personnel security officers also died on the spot, while another later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

“The decision to carry blank editorials in protest was taken by Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) and we also implemented it as did other papers to display a united face of Kashmir journalism in this hour of grief,” said Faisul Yaseen, Rising Kashmir’s Political Editor.

In its Tuesday edition Rising Kashmir also published a note of gratitude on the front page thanking its readers and all those who expressed their grief. “Rising Kashmir is obliged and appreciative of the support and sympathy offered by the people and well-wishers in the most trying times since the demise of our front-runner and dear departed Chief Editor Syed Shujaat Bukhari,” the note read. “We are indebted for all those sincere efforts made to alleviate the pain and ease the collective suffering that has inflicted us. Rising Kashmir, which promised its readers to uphold such values as truth, fairness and integrity in the field of journalism, has received a major setback. In the difficult task the benchmark for which was set by Shujaat, Rising Kashmir team and the family promises to do the best we can.”

On Monday local journalists from different media organisations led by Rising Kashmir staff also staged a silent sit-in protest in city centre’s Press Enclave where Bukhari was killed on Thursday. Holding placards that read “Journalism is not a crime” and “We will protest Shujaat’s killing even if we are alone in this”, journalists marched from the Press Enclave to city centre Lal Chowk’s historic Ghanta Ghar (clock tower) where they held a sit-in protest. “We are here holding a silent protest against the killing of Shujaat Sahab. Our silent protest is a message that we will continue to perform our professional duties despite all odds,” said Rashid Maqbool who edits Urdu daily Buland Kashmir, Rising Kashmir’s sister publication.

The killing has shocked the entire journalist fraternity in the Valley. Local newspaper editors and owners have also stood united in condemning the killing, carrying the news prominently on their front pages and publishing editorials and several opinion pieces denouncing the murder.

Local daily Kashmir Reader, while condemning the killing and expressing condolences with Shujaat’s family, in a previous editorial titled “Threat to the independence of journalism” noted that “Shujaat’s death is seen as attack on media fraternity and every journalist in the valley is in shock. Why can’t they be? Many questions hover over the skies of Kashmir as to why has a journalist been killed, especially when journalists as a fraternity don’t belong to any combatant group.”

The editorial went on to reiterate that the “killing of a journalist can never stop media houses from producing objective reportages.”

Similarly, another local daily, Kashmir Observer, in its June 15 front-page editorial titled “Nobody Killed Shujaat Bukhari”, emphasised that “the killings show the fraught nature of the journalism in Kashmir. Not only do they capture for us the horror of the times we live in but also give us a sense of what Kashmir journalism has had to go through to get the story.” The editorial also sought answers on who killed Bukhari. “The government and militant groups have blamed each other. Militants are seeing the hand of the intelligence agencies and the government blames the militants,” the editorial noted, adding, “and in between these allegations and counter-allegations, one more precious life has been lost. What is more, in the absence of the whereabouts of the killers, it is the rumour and innuendo that fills up the space.”

Sajjad Haider, editor-in-chief of Kashmir Observer and Vice-President of Kashmir Editors Guild, told Newslaundry that despite overt and covert attempts to silence them, Kashmir’s independent media continues to demonstrate incredible strength and dedication to keep public informed of happenings in the Valley. “The latest onslaught [Shujaat’s killing] has left us with few options. One is to close down our publications which may not be in public interest,” said Haider. “Second is to protest with the tool we have and that is why we have put our pens down for a day so that people who are against us can introspect and ponder.”


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