Kashmir Press Club Closure

Jan 21, 2022 | Communication Blockade

SRINAGAR, Jan 20: At least ten journalists’ bodies from Kashmir on Thursday condemned the attempted forcible take-over by a tiny group of journalists and subsequent shutting down of the Kashmir Press Club by the Jammu and Kashmir administration during a meeting on Thursday. 

The meeting was attended by journalist organizations registered with the Kashmir Press Club that have come together under the umbrella of Kashmir Media Coalition. Senior journalists Altaf Hussain, Nazir Masoodi, and Mufti Islah also attended the meet. 

Demanding the restoration of status quo of the Kashmir Press Club as on January 13, 2022 the meeting also resolved to seek explanation from the registering authority about the grounds on which the Club’s re-registration was put in abeyance and the club was shut down in an arbitrary manner. 

The journalist bodies resolved to explore all avenues for restoration of the Kashmir Press Club at the earliest. It also gave a week’s time to the last elected 11-member body to brief the journalist bodies about the developments with regard to restoration of the Kashmir Press Club. 

The journalists expressed gratitude to the various prominent journalist bodies – including Editors Guild of India, Press Council of India, Indian Union of Journalists, Foreign Correspondents Club, Chennai Press Club, Kolkata Press Club, Press Club of India, Mumbai Press Club and Delhi Union of Journalists; and international media watchdogs Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – for their support and solidarity. 

The collective has resolved to meet again on January 27, 2022 to chalk out the future course of action.
The ten bodies who attended the meeting were: Anjuman Urdu Sahafat, Jammu and Kashmir Editors Association, Jammu and Kashmir Journalists Association, Jammu and Kashmir Press Association, Journalist Federation Kashmir, Kashmir Journalist Association, Kashmir Press Photographers Association, Kashmir Union of Working Journalists, Kashmir Video Journalists Association and Kashmir Working Journalists Association.

Reports Without Borders

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has demanded the immediate reopening of the Kashmir Press Club, now officially closed for good after being invaded by agents of the New Delhi-run local government and paramilitaries last week.

Kashmiri journalists used the club to discuss their problems and defend press freedom, the RSF said.
“We call on Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to immediately restore the KPC’s license and order its reopening,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific Desk. 

“This society’s closure is clearly the outcome of a coup hatched at great length by the local government, which follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s orders. This undeclared coup is an Indian government insult to all the journalists trying to do their job in the Kashmir Valley, which is steadily being transformed into a black hole for news and information,” he said. 

Press Club of India

The Press Club of India (PCI) also termed the cancellation of the Kashmir Press Club’s registration and takeover of its premises by the Jammu and Kashmir administration as illegal and said such coercive action against journalists will adversely affect the image of the Union Territory. 

In a letter to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, seeking his effective intervention in the matter, the PCI also said the administration’s move violated basic constitutional rights of the local journalists. 

The action was deliberately taken as the elected management committee of the Kashmir Press Club (KPC) had announced the date for elections next month, the PCI alleged. 

It is our humble request to you that the registration of the Kashmir Press Club and allotment of the club’s land and building be restored immediately to protect the freedom of the press in the state, the PCI urged the Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor. 

The journalists’ body also demanded that the obstacles created in conducting fair and peaceful elections, according to schedule, should be removed.

The managing committee of the Press Club of India is deeply concerned that the local administration did not take any cognisance of the appeal made by all of us to you on January 16,” it said.

Instead of responding to the questions that were raised, the Jammu and Kashmir administration unilaterally revoked the registration of the KPC and seized control of the land allotted to the club, without granting the democratically elected body a chance to make its case, the PCI added.

We believe that cancellation of the registration of the Kashmir Press Club and handing over it to some people by removing the elected office bearers were unfair and illegal actions. Taking possession of the democratically run press club’s land and its premises by the State Estates Department is violation of basic constitutional rights of local journalists, it said.

What is most troublesome in this entire episode is that a factional war within journalist groups was presented as the front behind which the administration executed its coercive action, the PCI added. 

This misbehaviour and the coercive action against journalists will adversely affect the image of the state, it said.
The local administration’s action is not only undemocratic and illegal but also an attack on the freedom of the press, the PCI said, demanding that an impartial inquiry into the episode is necessary to bring the truth out. 

The PCI noted that the administration forcibly took possession of the KPC’s land and its premises even though the renewal certificate of the registration of the club was handed over to its office bearers just a week ago.

The current elected management committee of the club had announced the date for elections next month but the local administration deliberately derailed the election process with its unilateral action, it said. 

The unfortunate developments in the last few days are an attempt to forcibly interfere in the work of journalists and keep them under pressure and fear of administrative coercion, armed security forces and police. No democracy can run without the absence of a free media, the PCI said. 

There should be effective intervention at your level to remove the obstacles created in conducting fair and peaceful elections as per schedule, it said in its letter to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Sinha.

KT News Service | Kashmir Times