Journalist bodies in Kashmir urged Inspector General of police in Kashmir Vijay Kumar to put the record straight and clarify the statement attributed to him, after the top police officer said that the “media persons should not come closer to encounter sites and law and order situations and they should not carry live coverage of these situations.”
Media reports quoted Kumar as saying, “The freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions. They should not violate other people’s right to guarantee life or put national security in jeopardy…no operational context should be carried which is likely to incite violence or which promotes anti-national sentiments.”
Journalist bodies including Journalist Federation of Kashmir (JFK), Kashmir Editor’s Guild (KEG), Kashmir Working Journalists Association (KWJA), Kashmir Press Photographers Association (KPPA), Kashmir News Television Journalist Association (KNTJA), Kashmir Video Journalists Association (KVJA), Kashmir Press Club (KPC), Kashmir Journalists Association (KJA), Anjuman Urdu Sahafat, Kashmir Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Jammu and Kashmir Press Association (JKPA) and JK Editors Forum (JKEF) said that the statement attributed to the IGP has created anguish among the media fraternity.
“If this is a part of the official policy of police then it appears to be a tactic to coerce journalists into not reporting facts on the ground. It also seems to be a part of the string of measures taken by the authorities to suppress freedom of press in the region. Summoning journalists to police stations, filing FIRs and seeking informal explanations for their work has intensified in the past two years,” read a joint statement released by the media bodies in the valley.
It also noted that the journalists in Kashmir have worked under tremendous pressure for the past several decades and despite facing threats to life, liberty and property, they upheld the principles of journalism and reporting.
“The media in Kashmir are aware of the journalistic guidelines and ethics or situations like encounters, law and order situations and have always upheld these principles. Covering and reporting law and order situations in the region is one of the basic requirements for most news organisations and hence an essential part of the professional role of media professionals. Barring them from covering such events would mean stopping them from delivering their professional duties,” it said.
The statement also amplifies that the press freedom is the cornerstone of a democracy and any attack on it undermines the democratic setup of which media is the fourth pillar.
“Any such attack on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful,” it said.