Kashmir scribes oppose police diktat on encounter coverage

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 4/9/2021 12:52:52 AM

SRINAGAR, Apr 8: Jammu and Kashmir police’s decision to pursue legal action against media-persons who come close to gun-battle sites has been widely condemned by the journalistic fraternity, with media bodies coming together in a show of solidarity to term the latest decree as a “as part of series of measures to suppress freedom of the press”.
The controversy started on April 6 last when Kashmir’s inspector general of police, Vijay Kumar, warned journalists against covering operations at gun-fire sites and printing content that “promotes anti-national sentiment”.
“The media persons should do not carry any live coverage of any encounter or law and order situation,” he was quoted to have said, and added, “The freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions that should not violate other person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy.”
On Wednesday evening, Kumar said he has issued written directions to all district Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) to take legal action “based on facts” against media professionals who come close to gunbattle sites or near scenes of “law and order” situations.
“I have already issued written directions to all districts SSPs yesterday. District SSPs will take legal action on facts,” Kumar told news agency GNS on Wednesday, adding that directions applied to both national as well as for local media outlets.
When asked who comes under this advisory, IGP said it implies for both national as well as for local media outlets.
“Do not interfere in professional and bonafide duty of police and security forces at encounter site,” he said, adding that no operational content should be carried which is likely to incite violence or contains anything against “maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national sentiment.”
These remarks have come close on the heels of reports of destruction of buildings during the last week’s encounter at Kakapora in Pulwama. Video clips showing forces blowing up a house using improvised explosive devices went viral on the social media.
Journalists and media organisations in Kashmir say they are concerned over a new directive issued by the police prohibiting reporters from approaching the sites of gun-battles and covering “law and order” situations, saying it puts the “national security in jeopardy”.
In Kashmir, media bodies have said they feel anguished at the police’s decision to place further restrictions on covering gunfight scenes.
In a joint statement, 11 journalist groups including Kashmir Press Club and Kashmir Editors Guild have expressed their anguish at the police’s decision to impose such restrictions. “If this is a part of the official policy of police then it appears to be a tactic to coerce journalists into not reporting facts on the ground,” the groups said in a joint statement.
“It also seems to be a part of the string of measures taken by the authorities to suppress freedom of press in the region. Summoning journalists to police stations, filing FIRs and seeking informal explanations for their work has intensified in the past two years,” it added.
The statement said Kashmiri journalists “have worked under tremendous pressure for the past several decades and despite facing threats to life, liberty and property, they upheld the principles of journalism and reporting”, adding that “such attacks on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful”.
The statement said that the media in Kashmir are aware of the journalistic guidelines and ethics they must demonstrate during gunfights and law and order situations, and that they have always upheld these principles.
“Covering and reporting law and order situations in the region is one of the basic requirements for most news organisations and hence an essential part of the professional role of media professionals. Barring them from covering such events would mean stopping them from delivering their professional duties,” it said.
“Press freedom is the cornerstone of a democracy and any attack on it undermines the democratic setup of which media is the fourth pillar. Any such attack on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful.”
The joint statement was endorsed by Journalist Federation of Kashmir (JFK), Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG), Kashmir Working Journalists Association (KWJA), Kashmir Press Photographers Association (KPPA), Kashmir News Television Journalist Association (KNTJA), Kashmir Video Journalists Association (KVJA), Kashmir Press Club (KPC) ,Kashmir Journalists Association (KJA), Anjuman Urdu Sahafat, Kashmir Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Jammu and Kashmir Press Association (JKPA) and JK Editors Forum (JKEF).



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