Srinagar: The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) on Monday demanded that the police make public its charges against arrested journalist Asif Sultan, while expressing concern at the way police were interfering in the work of newspapers and asking reporters to disclose their sources.
In a meeting held today, the guild discussed and deliberated upon various developments that “hugely weaken the constitutional right” of freedom of expression.
“While the newspapers have routinely started getting ‘notices’ to explain things that have gone into print, there are very disturbing reports about reporters being asked to disclose sources, something that has not happened even during the emergency,” the KEG said in a statement.
On the arrest of Asif Sutan, the KEG said, “Police have registered a formal FIR after detaining him for six days. KEG believes while the police must make public the charges against him, the “incriminating material” the police have stated in a routine statement is too vague to be accepted as a reason. The law-enforcing agencies must understand the reality that every journalist’s laptop will have “incriminating” material because data collection is the fundamental activity of reporters.”
The KEG reiterated that a reporter cannot be forced to reveal his sources and this is considered illegal across the democracies of the world.
The KEG discussed in detail issues arising out of social media. “While the social media has the power of disrupting routine life – as happened on August 30 on the issue of Article 35(A) hearing – the emphasis of all the stakeholders must be to strengthen the formal media. It was media and not the police force that helped cool the situation by reporting the actual happening in the Supreme Court,” it said.
Discussing the situation with regard to media, the KEG said that Jammu and Kashmir being a disturbed state, conversation and free flow of information must be encouraged. “The law enforcing agencies must keep this in mind while overreacting to the writing that comes from the other side of the political divide,” the editors’ body said.
The KEG regretted that the police have not been able to file a charge sheet in the murder of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari. “This is despite the fact that the police claimed to have solved the case,” the KEG noted.
The editor’s body set up a series of committees to take care of certain crucial issues pertaining to the working of the media.
It was also decided to have a pro-active outreach plan for engaging policymaking and journalism aspirants for a better understanding of media operations and the Kashmir story.