J&K: PCI sets up committee to address journalist complaints
The Press Council of India has set up a three-member committee to look into the rising complaints of intimidation and harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir at the hands of the establishment.
The decision came after former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti wrote to the PCI and the Editors Guild of India asking them to take note of the alleged harassment of journalists in Kashmir.
“The Hon’ble Chairman, Press Council of India while taking suo motu cognisance on the communication of Ms Mehbooba Mufti, President, PDP, concerning intimidation and harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir, has constituted a three-member fact-finding committee,” reads the PCI order.
“The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are requested to extend full cooperation and assistance to this fact-finding committee for the discharge of its function,” it added.
The members of the committee are Prakash Dubey, convener and group editor of Dainik Bhaskar, Gurbir Singh, journalist at New Indian Express, and Suman Gupta, editor of Jan Morcha.
The committee has been asked to conduct a thorough probe and hold discussions with the authorities concerned and the affected journalists.
On Monday, Mehbooba wrote to the two bodies about the police raids at the homes of four journalists on September 8 and alleged that their mobile phones, laptops, ATM cards and the passports of their spouses were illegally seized.
The police said the four journalists — Hilal Mir, Showkat Motta, Mohammad Shah Abbass and Azhar Qadri — who had worked for local, national and international media organisations were being questioned about a blog called Kashmir Fight. The police claim the blog is run from Pakistan. The journalists have denied any wrongdoing.
Along with her letter, Mehbooba had attached a copy of a questionnaire served to the journalists, complaining that the questions were not only irrelevant but also based on the assumption that the loyalty of journalists concerned lies with “anti-national networks”.
The questions on the list seek information about the journalists’ political allegiance as well as their relatives in Pakistan. The list also contains questions on whether the journalists are affiliated with any non-governmental organisations and socio-religious bodies and seek details about the properties they own.
“Unfortunately, this is a diabolical method to perpetuate the communal mindset throughout the country in order to gain political mileage and relevance by demeaning and marginalising an entire community,” Mehbooba wrote.
A journalist working for a local newspaper said the PCI decision was welcome, particularly the presence of “credible journalists in the committee, but said it needed to look at the situation dispassionately and not through the narrow prism of nationalism”.
“The fact of the matter is that the state does not trust local journalists. The government has withheld accreditation cards for this year, which is otherwise a routine affair and makes our movement easy. We are told these cards would be issued to only pliant journalists,” a journalist said.
Another journalist said the PCI did not have a great reputation in Kashmir, pointing to the clean chit it gave to the army in 1991 mass rapes in Kunan Poshpora. The council was invited by the army to investigate the incident but it had backed the army’s version.