Srinagar: The Kashmir Press Club Monday said security agencies were threatening and intimidating journalists working in the Valley.
At a meeting Monday, KPC members said the administration had not been enabling journalists to freely operate ever since Article 370 was scrapped by the Narendra Modi government.
“This is evident from the prolonged six-month internet shutdown in the region since August 5. As if that was not enough, physical attacks, threats and summons to journalists are being employed by security agencies to intimidate journalists,” the KPC said in a statement issued after the meeting.
It said harassment of journalists by the J&K Police’s counter-insurgency headquarters, Cargo, in Srinagar has become a “routine exercise”.
“The harassment and questioning of journalists in Kashmir on flimsy grounds by the J&K Police for their work is in fact a damning verdict on the appalling condition in which the media is operating,” the statement added.
The KPC, along with 10 other journalist bodies from Kashmir, convened the urgent meeting Monday following the summoning of two journalists from the Valley who were questioned for hours at Cargo.
According to the journalists, they were questioned on why they reported a strike call given by separatist outfits on the death anniversaries of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and separatist leader Maqbool Bhat, who were hanged.
‘Stop summons and attacks on journalists’
The Kashmir-based journalists talked about several instances of summons and questioning that have taken place since August 2019 when the erstwhile state was stripped of its special status granted under Article 370.
More than six Kashmiri journalists, including those from The Hindu, The Indian Express, Economic Times, have been recently questioned by the J&K Police, and there have been multiple incidents of reporters having been physically attacked.
The club noted that this correspondent was beaten up by the police in Srinagar while covering a protest. In August, security forces had picked up another local journalist and detained him for nearly 24 hours.
The club said internet restrictions and forcibly seeking undertakings from news organisations to allow limited internet access, constant surveillance, physical attacks and summons are the tools designed to ensure only government-promoted version is heard outside.
“However, the meeting today made it clear that journalists are within their rights to report about the happenings from Kashmir impartially and truthfully,” said the statement.
The KPC asked the government to stop the practice of summons and attacks on journalists.
“Being the Fourth Estate, the government should ensure freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in the constitution instead of muzzling the press. Viewing media as part of problem in Kashmir and blaming journalists for everything wrong is quite misplaced,” the statement added.