SRINAGAR – The Kashmir Press Club Management Committee members comprising President Shuja-ul-Haq, Vice President Moazum Mohammad, General Secretary Ishfaq Tantry and Treasurer Farooq Javed Khan on Monday met the three-member Fact Finding Committee (FFC) of Press Council of India in Srinagar to apprise them about the media scene in the region.
Without mincing words, the Kashmir Press Club told the visiting delegation that the period since the August 5 abrogation of Article 370 has been the “toughest time” for the Kashmir media, during which the journalists faced harassment, summons, intimidation and censorship.
Pointing to the communications blackout, the KPC management told the PCI delegation that since August 5, 2019, Kashmir witnessed the longest internet curfew in the modern history, which severely hampered the working of the press in the region and termed the harsh measures as “a press gag”.
The KPC members also raised questions over the conduct of the Press Council of India (PCI) and pointed out that the PCI during this time has failed to show solidarity with the Kashmiri journalists when they were facing existential threats and the most troubling times.
The Club also pointed out the “unethical” stand taken by the PCI chairman wherein he had justified the restrictions imposed by the government post abrogation of Article 370.
“The communications shutdown and the largest internet shutdown ever deeply impacted the journalist from Kashmir”, and was in a way a “deep question mark over the freedom of the press” in the region.
Adding that during these trying times, the Kashmir Press Club has tried it’s best to be the voice of the media in Kashmir, the KPC members also detailed out the individual cases of harassment, summons to the journalists by the police during this period and also handed out a compilation of all the statements and the testimonies of the journalists collected during this time to the visiting PCI delegation for their perusal and subsequent reflection in their reports.
“The Press Club pointed out that all these incidents amply reflect the deliberate targeting of the journalists in Kashmir since August 5, 2019 which it said was aimed at complete obliteration of the free press in Kashmir”.
The KPC also pointed out that for restoring the internet connectivity to the media houses and journalists in Kashmir, the Internet Service Providers on the instructions of the government authorities sought “coercive undertakings’ from them, wherein one clause even asked for “providing complete access to the systems and content” to the security agencies as and when needed.
Though the Media Facilitation Centre was in no way a supplement to cater to the need of the journalists in Kashmir, the KPC appreciated the information department for trying to facilitate the media in the difficult times during this period.
The Kashmir Press Club in its interaction with visiting PCI delegation hoped that in future the Press Council of India would do everything in its endeavor to ensure that freedom of the press is upheld in the region, more particularly in Kashmir where serious attempts by the authorities were made to muzzle it and trample the rights of journalists guaranteed under the constitution.