‘Toughest time’ for media since Aug 5, Kashmir Press Club tells PCI team

SRINAGAR: The Kashmir Press Club (KPC) management committee, comprising President Shuja-ul-Haq, Vice President Moazum Mohammad, General Secretary Ishfaq Tantry and Treasurer Farooq Javed Khan met the three-member Fact Finding Committee of Press Council of India (PCI) in Srinagar on Monday.
Without mincing words, the Kashmir Press Club office bearers told the visiting delegation that the period since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 has been the “toughest time” for Kashmir media, during which journalists have faced harassment, summons, intimidation, and censorship, a statement issued said.
Pointing to the communications blackout, the KPC management told the PCI delegation that since August 5, Kashmir witnessed the longest internet curfew in modern history, which severely hampered the working of the press in the region. The KPC management termed the harsh measures as “a press gag”.
The KPC members also raised questions over the conduct of the Press Council of India and pointed out that the PCI during this time failed to show solidarity with Kashmiri journalists when they were facing existential threats and the most troubling times.
They 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 KPC members also detailed the individual cases of harassment and summons to journalists by police during this period and also handed out a compilation of all the statements and the testimonies of the journalists collected during this time.
“The Press Club pointed out that all these incidents amply reflect the deliberate targeting of journalists in Kashmir since August 5, 2019, which was aimed at complete obliteration of the free press in Kashmir,” the KPC said.
The KPC members also pointed out that for restoring internet connectivity to media houses and journalists in Kashmir, Internet Service Providers on the instructions of 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 sufficient to cater to the need of 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.

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