IJU condemns ‘forcible takeover’ of Kashmir Press Club

NEW DELHI, 17 Jan: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has condemned the Jammu & Kashmir registrar of society for putting in abeyance the Kashmir Press Club’s (KPC) registration and the “forcible takeover” of the club by a group of journalists aided by the J&K administration and the police.

“The KPC has been vocal on media issues, sustained harassment and intimidation of journalists in the valley and the twin actions smack of vendetta and brazen attempt to silence dissenting voices,” the IJU said, and demanded immediate restoration of the club’s registration as a society and holding of elections to the club at the earliest.

According to reports, the KPC had last Friday announced that it would hold elections to form a new body on 15 February as it could not do so last year due to pending re-registration under new UT laws. Within hours, the registrar in an order said “the SSP, CID office has put on hold the non-involvement and verification of character and antecedent certificates of members of the KPC managing body, known as Aiwan-e-Sahafat, and thus the re-registration granted (to the KPC) on 29 December, 2021 is hereby kept in abeyance till the receipt of final report from additional district magistrate, Srinagar.”

“Shocking to say the least, within 24 hours a group of journalists, headed by Salim Pandit and Zulfikar Majid, arrived at the KPC office in Srinagar on Saturday, weekend curfew, took it over by appointing themselves as a ‘new body’, and locked the club for a week, in the presence of police and paramilitary personnel,” the IJU said.

The KPC reacted, saying: “The new unfortunate development has advertently stalled the election process for the new body that was set in motion. The management committee wants to put this on record that during its tenure it has run the KPC with professionalism and integrity. It hopes that the institution, which has been established after a lot of efforts by the fraternity, continues to be allowed to function in the best interests of its members.”

In a statement, IJU President Geetartha Pathak and Secretary-General Sabina Inderjit said, “The hostile takeover by a group of journalists, self-styled body, goes against democratic principles, is unconstitutional and smacks of an adamant administration hell bent on silencing media and institutions critical of its functioning and using the pandemic as an excuse to carry on its nefarious designs.”

The IJU demanded that the J&K lieutenant governor order an inquiry into the matter and ensure that the KPC is allowed to function democratically.

The IJU in its national executive committee meeting held in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, on 12 January had in a resolution expressed solidarity with its J&K journalist colleagues and demanded that the J&K administration desist from stifling press freedom in Kashmir.