The Leaflet

| @theleaflet_in | August 27,2019

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Press Council of India (PCI) has come under scathing criticism for brazenly supporting ongoing restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. On Tuesday, the Editors’ Guild, Press Club of India and Indian Women Press Corps deplored the PCI’s decision to oppose the plea filed in the Supreme Court by Kashmir Times editor, which seeks media freedom in Jammu and Kashmir after it was stripped of its special status and statehood.

Expressing grave concerns about the press council’s decision, the Guild in a statement said that PCI had failed to speak up for press freedom and was “perversely arguing for a media clampdown in the name of national interest”.

“This, at a time when reporters on the ground are being targeted for doing their job,” the statement read. “Specifically the Guild expects the chairman of the Press Council of India to rescind his unilateral decision, apparently without consulting Council members, to intercede in a case in the Supreme Court concerning extreme and unrelenting restrictions placed on the media in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The guild asked the press council to objectively assess the difficult circumstances in which the media was working in Jammu and Kashmir “and lend its moral and institutional weight to help ease the restrictions that stand in the way of fair and accurate reporting”.

It also highlighted the importance of a free media, whose “reliable feedback loop” to those in the government keeps citizens well-informed. It said that free media also acted as a “safety valve” for critical expressions that can grow if they are suppressed.

Earlier this week, the PCI had sought the Supreme Court’s permission to intervene in a plea filed by the Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin that demanded that the restrictions be removed. The press council, in its petition, supported the ban on media and said it was “in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of the nation”.

Pertinently, many members of the council said that the chairperson had violated rules by not consulting them.

Earlier, during a meeting at Press Club, senior journalist Urmilesh said that “intermediatory petition” will be regarded as a “black stain” on the face of PCI. “Mainstream media tells you that Article 370 of the Constitution was a temporary one, but they do not tell you the reason. Article 370 was accorded temporary provision because it had to be approved by then Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly”.

The political editor of the investigative magazine ‘The Caravan’, Hartosh Singh Bal decried that Indian media was “distorting” and “misrepresenting” facts about Kashmir.

Jai Shankar Gupta, organiser of the meet, said that the purpose of the meeting was to urge the statutory body (PCI) to withdraw its petition.

Meanwhile, several journalists and members of the civil society in Chennai slammed the PCI for its move to intervene in a case in the Supreme Court over media restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.

“It is disgraceful that the Chairperson of PCI has endorsed the high-handed and unconstitutional steps taken by the government without even subjecting his actions to a perfunctory discussion in the council,” Members of Tamil Nadu Union of Journalists, Indian Journalists Union, Alliance for Media Freedom, TN Women’s Coordination Committee said in a joint press statement.

Alliance for Media Freedom president N Ram said, “It is shocking that PCI, which is tasked to uphold freedom of press, in a seven page application has justified restrictions on media in Jammu and Kashmir. This is a dystopian vision of media freedom.”

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