“Covering and reporting law and order situations in the region is an essential part of media professionals,” says a joint statement issued by several journalist associations
NEW DELHI — Kashmiri media bodies have expressed resentment over a diktat by police asking journalists to refrain from ground reportage of gunfights and clashes during protests.
A joint statement issued by a dozen groups, including Kashmir Press Club, Journalist Federation Kashmir, Editors Guild and Photojournalists Association, said that barring journalists from covering such events would mean stopping them from performing their professional duties.
“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,” says the statement.
On April 6, local media reported that the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, has said that “media persons should not come closer to encounter sites and law and order situations and they should not carry live coverage of these situations.”
The IGP warned journalists of legal action if they violate the order and said that 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,” said Kumar.
This has left the journalist fraternity, already working under strenuous conditions, in anguish.
“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,” read the statement which termed the diktat “a tactic to coerce journalists into not reporting facts on the ground.”
It further says that it appears to be a part of the string of measures, which included summoning journalists filing FIRs, taken by the authorities in past two years to “suppress freedom of press in the region”
The journalist bodies appealed to the police chief to come on record and clarify the statement being attributed to him.
Hours after the joint statement came out, new reports surfaced which said that the police chief has asked district police officials to take legal action against media persons if they come closer to sites of gunfight or clashes.
The diktat from police comes days after a viral video of a cop kicking a photojournalist while he was covering a law and order situation near a gunfight sight sparked outrage among the media fraternity in the valley.