SRINAGAR: Prominent journalist bodies on Saturday condemned the government’s barring of journalists from the venue of the official Republic Day function in Srinagar. The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) said the incident calls for strong action against officials who were responsible for this.
“Senior journalists were stopped at the main gate of the venue by security personnel and were not allowed to go inside despite having valid security passes provided to them by the authorities,” the KEG said.
“The action by the security men on the ground suggests that the security establishment wishes to frighten the media by not allowing them to carry out their professional duties,” it added.
The KEG said the incident was a grim reminder of how vulnerable the media was in a region riddled with conflict and lawlessness.
“The stopping of journalists from carrying out their duties is becoming a norm these days, as journalists were also stopped from covering an event on Thursday in Baramulla,” the KEG pointed out.
“KEG demands that the state government should take stringent action against the police officers who sought to muzzle the press and take steps to create a situation where media can function freely and discharge its duty to the citizens by providing information on the happenings in the state,” the editors’ guild said.
“KEG also demands the details of the so-called adverse reports that the police claims it has collected against senior scribes,” it added.
The Kashmir Working Journalists Association (KWJA) said it strongly condemns the “repeated assaults” on journalists and asked the Governor’s administration to come clean on its reported diktat to blacklist some journalists from covering the official R-Day event.
“KWJA believes that these are not isolated incidents of harassment against journalists but there is a pattern in it. In the past week journalists were barred from doing their professional duty in Baramulla and they were targeted with pellets in Shopian,” it said.
“This situation has become alarming and life threatening for journalists. Today’s incident of blacklisting some of the internationally reputed journalists indicates that the institutions of the state are out to attack freedom of speech and expression in Kashmir with impunity,” the KWJA said.
The association asked the Press Council of India, the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the International Press Institute, the International Center for Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, the American Press Institute, the Center for Media and Democracy, and UNESCO to take cognisance of the grave situation in which journalists are working in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmir Journalists Association (KJA) also called for strict action against police officers. “There is no justification whatsoever in stopping journalists from doing their legitimate duties. Today’s incident underlines the fragility of press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir and how blatantly government institutions like police misuse their powers to muzzle the press,” it said.
“We demand strict action against the police officers responsible for stopping journalists at today’s event and also those responsible for harassing and attacking journalists in the past. Or else it will be considered as a deliberate policy by the authorities to ensure restrictions/ clampdown on the press in the Valley,” the KJA said.