Media orgs decry PCI’s biased stand on Kashmir

ITANAGAR, Aug 24: Several media organizations and journalists have expressed grave concern at the decision of the Press Council of India (PCI) to intervene in the petition filed by Kashmir Times Executive Editor Anuradha Bhasin to rescind the ban on communication in Jammu & Kashmir.
“We urge the PCI to immediately intervene in favour of the petition filed by Bhasin to rescind the ban on communication forthwith. Anything short of this will be a travesty to media freedom,” the media organisations said in a joint statement.
“By this intervention in the petition filed by Bhasin, it appears that the PCI is abrogating its constitutional responsibility towards standing firmly and fearlessly for the freedom of the press and the right of the media to act as the voice of the voiceless,” the media organisations said, adding that the PCI’s stand “flies in the face of the role of the PCI as a statutory body to safeguard the rights of the media to fulfill its responsibility freely, without fear or favour. That is in the true national interest, irrespective of the interests of the government of the day,” they said.
“The PCI’s petition has sought to be heard in the matter and does not unequivocally stand to protect press freedom. Instead, it conflates the issues raised by the petition on the rights of the media/journalists for free and fair reporting on the one hand and national interest of integrity and sovereignty on the other, and seeks to assist the court on the issue of the freedom of the press as well as in the national interest,” the statement read.
It said the PCI’s “wording of the intervention petition in this manner is deplorable, completely indefensible, and strikes a severe blow against the struggle of journalists from Kashmir to be able to report freely on the effect of the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August, 2019.
“Since then, the entire region has been under the most extraordinary clampdown of communication, newspapers have not been printed or distributed freely, and journalists have not been able to gather news, much less disseminate it. Their movements have been hampered and their mobility severely restricted,” the statement read.
The internet shutdown in Jammu & Kashmir has been total, and only select government officers have recourse to landlines or private satellite phones. Ordinary citizens have not been able to get any information about the plight of their family members, even of the death of loved ones. Medical help for citizens has been severely hampered, and students are unable to get information on courses and job applications.
“The government continues to claim that Kashmir is peaceful and calm. Yet, independent media organisations have recorded evidence of protests and expressions of anger by citizens; but in the face of the ban on the internet, the very dissemination of this news is threatened,” the organisations said.
“In this situation, it is the responsibility of an august, statutory body like the Press Council of India to step forward and fulfill its duty to media freedom,” they said.