Srinagar: Media bodies in Kashmir have raised concerns over Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar’s recent remarks over the coverage of gunfights and law and order situations in the region. They have termed it as part of coercive tactics to thwart journalists from covering ground situations in Jammu and Kashmir.
IGP Kashmir was quoted by local news gathering agencies on Tuesday as saying 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.”
“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,” IGP Kumar was further quoted as saying.
Various journalist bodies including the Kashmir Press Club (KPC), Kashmir Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Kashmir Editor’s Guild (KEG), Anjuman Urdu Sahafat and Journalist Federation of Kashmir (JFK) said the IGP’s remarks were “distressful” for journalists working in the region marred by conflict and war. The groups added that these remarks were part of coercive tactics and they have urged the senior police official to clarify the directive attributed to him.
“If this is a part of the official policy of the 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,” the statement by media bodies read.
The IGP’s comments come at a time when various press bodies have highlighted that the working conditions for journalists in the region have worsened especially after the government enforced clampdown in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
Various journalists have been summoned to police stations, questioned and slapped with serious charges under strict laws including the controversial Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), something that has globally drawn flak against the authorities in the region.
“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 statement added.
The armed forces in Kashmir including the Jammu and Kashmir police have been accused of using excessive force against journalists especially while covering gunfights between militants and government forces. Many have alleged that they have been baton charged or at times beaten up even outside the security perimetres near encounter sites.
The journalist bodies claimed that 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 role of media professionals.
“Barring them from covering such events would mean stopping them from delivering their professional duties,” the statement pointed out.