Two days after the J&K police summoned for questioning two journalists for publishing and circulating a statement of the banned Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), the Kashmir Press Club Monday said the “harassment of journalists” is a “damning verdict on the appalling condition in which media is operating” in the union territory.
In a statement, the KPC alleged “physical attacks, threats and summons to journalists” since August 5 when the former state of Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and made into a union territory. “Viewing media as part of the problem in Kashmir and blaming journalists for everything wrong is quite misplaced,” the statement read.
It further urged the government to “ensure freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in the constitution instead of muzzling the press.” Citing the prolonged Internet shutdown in the region, the press body said the restrictions put in place and “forcibly seeking undertakings from news organizations to gain constant surveillance by police are all tools to ensure only government-promoted version is heard outside.”
On Saturday, Naseer Ahmad Ganai, who works for the Outlook magazine and Haroon Nabi, who works for local news gathering agency CNS, were called for questioning by J&K police for publishing a statement by the JKLF which called for a shutdown in the Valley on February 9 and 11. While February 9 marks the anniversary of the hanging of Afzal Guru, February 11 is the anniversary of the hanging of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat.
A group of senior journalists, including representatives of the Kashmir Press Club, had met Kashmir IGP Vijay Kumar over the issue on Saturday evening. KPC had then said such “summoning of journalists” has become routine. “It is definitely harassment. On and off, journalists have been summoned by the police for their stories,” said KPC general secretary Ishfaq Tantry.
The statement also mentions several other incidents of journalists being detained, summoned, or asked to reveal their sources by the J&K police since August 5, the first incident being the detention of a 26-year-old journalist working for a Srinagar-based English daily in Kashmir.
The KPC had earlier taken note of internet clampdown in the Valley following the abrogation of Article 370, saying it “severely crippled” the functioning of the media fraternity” and has “adversely affected the ground reporting and newsgathering operations”.
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