Editors of six Nagaland newspapers have registered their protest against a notification sent to five newspapers in Nagaland by a Colonel of the Assam Rifles asking them not to publish any reports to do with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) which has just been declared a terrorist outfit by the Central government.
As a protest, six editors put out their editions with a blank editorial space on 16 November which is commemorated as National Press Day.
The Army notification implies that by reporting on the statements of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), the newspapers would have intentionally or unintentionally supported the organisation as well as violated the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.
A joint statement by the editors of six newspapers - Nagaland Post, Nagaland Page, Morung Express, Eastern Mirror, Tir Yimyim and Capi – have criticised the curbs imposed by the Army.
"[We] take this opportunity to reflect and assert our role as an independent and responsible free press, and to affirm our commitment as the fourth pillar of democracy. We remain open to critical feedback, and believe that the free flow of information and ideas is essential for contributing to mutual understanding and peace in Nagaland", the statement said.
"We believe that the Assam Rifles shares our vision that the citizens of Nagaland have the basic and inalienable right to be informed, to listen to all voices on matters that affect their daily lives, and to make informed decisions pursuant to the dream we all share of a Nagaland that is thriving, peaceful and democratic," the statement added.
The editors seem to have taken the same route that press baron Ramnath Goenka's took when the Emergency was declared by the Indira Gandhi government. Goenka had printed The Indian Express with a blank editorial space as a protest against the Emergency. The editors in Nagaland have drawn a comparison with an era in Indian history which is seen as the darkest period for freedom of expression in democratic India.