Srinagar: The Kashmir Press Club (KPC) on Saturday issued a statement decrying “the attempts by authorities to throttle information on coronavirus”.
Highlighting a recent gag order issued by Director Health Services, Kashmir, ordering doctors and paramedics not to share information with media about the ongoing crisis, the KPC said that stopping information flow amid the unprecedented situation was condemnable. It said that putting out information during pandemic through authentic print and electronic media is of vital importance as it helps to stop flow of unverified information and rumours.
“The Kashmir Press Club notes with concern that the order invariably is nothing but a crude attempt at further stifling the freedom of the press in the region. Kashmir media has been playing its role responsibly by highlighting lack of facilities and protective gears for frontline health workers-doctors and paramedics-to ensure gaps are filled in dealing with the virus, which has consumed two lives so far in the region,” the KPC said in a statement.
“The KPC expects the government authorities to exchange information related to coronavirus crisis with media and journalists with more vigour as only free and transparent flow of information would facilitate an objective and accurate body of work by the journalists,” it said.
The Kashmir Press Club also said that it stood in support of the recent statement of Editors Guild of India which said, “No democracy anywhere in the world is fighting this pandemic by gagging its media.”
The KPC urged the authorities to facilitate the movement of journalists and media workers during the lockdown to allow them unhindered access as newspapers have already been categorised as an essential service by the government.
The KPC also condemned a recent incident wherein a reporter in Kulgam, Umaisar Gul, was thrashed by the security personnel when he was returning from Qazigund hospital in south Kashmir on March 30, 2020. The KPC demanded strict action against the culprits involved in this incident.
The KPC urged its journalist members and media workers to take extreme precautions while reporting on coronavirus crisis.
“As per the guidelines already issued by global health bodies and media advocacy groups (links below), the KPC urges the members, particularly the photo and video journalists who visit different places to follow the protocol for their safety and security,” it said.
The KPC reiterated that the media needs to be more responsible in this crisis but it also needs a free and fair environment to report.
CPJ Covid-19 advisory for journalists