The Press Council of India on Wednesday approved a report of its three-member sub-committee recommending enactment of a special law to protect journalists in Jammu and Kashmir, on the lines of Maharashtra.
Taking note of the prevailing fear psychosis among the journalists working in the Valley, the sub-committee — set up to assess the media scenario in the state after the murder of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari on June 14 by alleged militants — recommended that media houses should supply dress/jackets to working journalists with ‘press’ embossed on it.
Maharashtra Mediapersons and Media Institutions Bill was passed by the Maharashtra government in 2017 to protect journalists from any attack — the first state to do so.
“The council has accepted the report. Now it will go to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and the government of Jammu and Kashmir in a day or two,” PK Dash, one of the three members of the sub-committee, said. He, however, refused to divulge more details. Other members on the sub-committee are UGC nominee Prof Sushma Yadav and UNI editor Ashok Upadhyay.
According to sources, the report has made 10 recommendations. It suggests that in case of any published material, the administration should take all necessary steps to nab the killers of Bukhari and beef up security arrangements at Srinagar’s Press Enclave. The report also suggests that the State Working Journalists’ Welfare Fund Committee should be reconstituted and more welfare measures be introduced.
It also recommends that the Information and Public Relation Department of the state government should be in touch with journalists and media houses more regularly and interact with them more often. It has also suggested that the Information and Public Relation Department should convene a meeting of journalists’ unions and reporters to make them aware of the norms of journalistic conduct, especially at the time of conflict reporting.
Sources said that due to prevailing fear psychosis, many sources chose to remain silent regarding the situation responsible for assassination of Bukhari. They said that the sub-committee has observed that mediapersons working in the Valley are in distress and were not getting proper financial support from the local government.
It has also said that the rules of the Registrar of Newspapers of India and State Information Directorate need to be reviewed so that small and medium newspapers can survive.