Members stand divided as press council backs govt over media curbs in J&K

Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370
Communication was cut off and restrictions on the movement of media was imposed after the Centre abrogated Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Photo: PTI

Two days after the Press Council of India (PCI) sought to intervene in a petition filed by the executive editor of Kashmir Times praying for the relaxation of restrictions on the movement of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir, a group of PCI members have objected to the move stating that they were not consulted before the petition was filed.

Earlier this week, the PCI had moved an application in the apex court, seeking permission to assist the court in deciding on the petition filed by Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times. While Bhasin in her plea had urged the top court to allow media personnel to practise their profession in the Valley after restrictions were imposed on media following the abrogation of Article 370 in the Valley, the PCI justifying the restrictions, in its application, had stated that the curbs imposed by the government were in “national interest and sovereignty of the nation”.

According to a report by Scroll, the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) and three of its nominated members to PCI have stated that PCI chairperson Justice (retired) CK Prasad has violated council rules by seeking to intervene in the matter.

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In a statement issued on Monday, IJU president and PCI member D Amar, IJU general secretary and International Federation of Journalists vice president Sabina Inderjit and PCI members Balwinder S Jammu and M Majid, have said that Prasad should have consulted the council before approaching the apex court and spared his fellow journalists of embarrassment.

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The union said the move by PCI, undermined the credibility of the organisation and went against the rudimentary aim of the institution, which was to protect the freedom of the press.

Speaking to Scroll, Jammu said that the Jammu and Kashmir issue was discussed in a meeting of the PCI on August 22 where some members had proposed passing a resolution asking the government to lift the restrictions on communication and allowing free coverage in Jammu and Kashmir. The resolution however couldn’t be passed as the council decided to send a four-member team to the state to assess the situation, before taking a call. Jammu, however said, that the PCI chairperson, who attended the meeting had made no mention of the Supreme Court application, which was completely opposed to the views of the council members.

In an editorial published on Monday, The Hindu also lashed out at the PCI for supporting the government in its move, stating that it was “brazenly contrary to its (the institution’s) mandate and purpose”.

IJU members said the petition was in clear violation of Rule 8 of The Press Council (Procedure for Conduct of Meetings and Business) Regulation, 1979 and that it should be recalled and a fresh affidavit, demanding removal of curbs on media movement, be filed.

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