Srinagar: On Saturday, many journalists were barred by government forces from covering the Republic Day ceremony in Srinagar.
As per reports, several journalists were stopped near the main gate of Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium where frisking before the ceremony was being done. At the entrance, many of them were not allowed and told that this was because there were “adverse” police reports against them.
Despite displaying security passes issued by the Information Department of Jammu and Kashmir government to cover the function, their entry was barred.
Kashmir Journalists Association (KJA) condemned the governmentâs ârepressiveâ act of barring journalists from covering the R-Day event. Image: Zubair Sofi.
The barred journalists include Danish Ismail, who works with Reuters, Tauseef Mustafa with Agence France-Presse, Umar Mehraj and Mehraj-U-Din of Associated Press, Amaan Farooq with local daily newspaper Greater Kashmir.
Soon after the incident, the entire reporters’ fraternity boycotted the function in Srinagar and staged a protest in heart of city at Lal Chowk.
Hundreds of journalists marched from Kashmir Press Club to Ghanta Ghar in Lal Chowk and staged a protest against the barring of senior journalists.
An angry Danish Ismail told NewsClick that such actions would not stop journalists from performing their duties. Terming this as “very serious”, he said “If we were barred, why did the authorities issue passes under our names, why we were allowed to cover the rehearsal a day before of Republic Day?” he said, adding that “If watchdogs and messengers of society are under threat, how can the the public feel safe in this situation.”
Meanwhile, Kashmir Journalists Association (KJA) condemned the government’s “repressive” act of barring journalists from covering the R-Day event. In a statement, KJA said that there was no justification in stopping journalists from doing their legitimate duties.
“This incident underlines the fragility of press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir and how blatantly the government institutions like police misuse its powers to muzzle the press,” the KJA statement read.
“The incident comes days after journalists were stopped by police to cover newsworthy events in Baramulla and showering them with pellets in Shopian. Four journalists were injured by pellets in south Kashmir’s Shopian while covering protests there. Yet no responsibility was fixed on the erring personnel for the life-threatening attack,” the statement said.
“We demand strict action against the police officers responsible for stopping journalists at today’s event and also those responsible for harassing and attacking journalists in past. Else it will be considered as a deliberate policy by the authorities to ensure restrictions/clampdown on the press in the Valley,” it added.
Meanwhile, K Vijay Kumar, advisor to Governor, issued a statement which said that the issue of some journalists not being permitted to cover the Republic Day function in Srinagar would be looked into. He said the entire process of security clearance for issuance of passes to journalists shall be reviewed for better coordination in future.
“It is learnt that today at Republic Day parade venue in Srinagar some journalists were not permitted to cover the event as the security passes issued to them were found not to be authenticated. The matter shall be looked into,” Kumar, who is In-charge Home Department, said.
He said it has been given to understand that primarily the incident occurred because of the procedure followed by the police for the issuance of security passes during such events, adding that the entire process would be reviewed.