New Delhi, Oct 22: The Press Club of India (PCI) on Thursday said that it is dismayed to note that the UT administration of Jammu and Kashmir has continued with its calculated and sustained attacks on the media in the UT, and its efforts to efface the cause of press freedom, without which any claims to democracy become dubious.
“The latest instance of wielding the rod against independent sections of the media has come in the shape of the administration sealing the office of the prestigious daily Kashmir Times’ Srinagar Bureau, in the Press Enclave in J&K’s summer capital,” PCI said in a statement .
The statement reads that this reeks of pettiness and vindictiveness. “Not long ago, the administration first “raided” and then seized the residence of Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of the newspaper, along with all belongings. Kashmir Times and Bhasin personally have attracted the ire of the authorities because she showed the gumption to challenge in the Supreme Court the circumstances- in particular closure of the internet and curfews, both of which made journalism impossible- that flowed from the deeply troubling decision taken by the Government of India on August 5 last year,” the statement said.
It added the actions of the militaristic regime in both instances are dictatorial, unconstitutional, without due process.
“These give the impression to a neutral observer that the very idea of the rule of law has fled JK since 5 August, 2019, when the constitutional autonomy was taken away-again without due process,” the statement said.
The PCI further stated that the day the top court was moved with a view to defending press freedoms, the UT administration withdrew all government advertising to Kashmir Times.
“The message could not be more clear- that it was necessary to back the government’s actions in order to qualify to receive government advertisements. It was clear that a poodle press is the only form of media the government was willing to tolerate. Intimidation is writ large on the government actions in relation to Kashmir Times and its editor,” the statement said.
This was a major institution in J&K that practised objective journalism instead of cosying up to the government.
This made it an eyesore to the authorities who have built a track record of routinely harassing, intimidating, and interrogating journalists, the statement said.
“The actions of the regime have made India a laughing stock among democratic nations and an object of mockery in dictatorial dispensations, including in our neighborhood. This is to be deeply regretted. We demand that the authorities end their show of small- mindedness immediately, and restore the earlier status of the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times”.
“We also demand the same for Ms Bhasin’s residence. In case the government is intent on pressing on with vendetta, let it resume its ignominious battle with responsible journalists with due process, else retreat”.
The Press Club of India further demands that the government directives in the functioning of the media in J&K since it was reduced in status and made a UT, be withdrawn, it adds.