The country’s prominent journalists’ bodies, including the Editors Guild of India and the Mumbai Press Club, on Sunday, came out in support of the elected management of the Kashmir Press Club
Country’s prominent journalists’ bodies, including the Editors Guild of India (EGI) and the Mumbai Press Club (MPC), on Sunday, came out in support of the elected management of the Kashmir Press Club (KPC), a day after it was taken over by a small ‘disgruntled’ group of media persons flanked by the police.
The group on Sunday locked the club triggering outrage among the journalistic fraternity of Kashmir.
“The club has been shut down on Sunday and this has anguished scores of its members who have been calling me. The KPC has continued to operate during the toughest times. I urge the L-G of J&K to intervene for the welfare of members and ensure the institution is allowed to function democratically,” said the president of the club, Shuja ul Haq in a statement.
The EGI and the MPC condemned what they said was the forcible takeover of the Kashmir Press Club by a group of journalists with the help of armed policemen.
The EGI termed the takeover of the club as a ‘coup’, demanded immediate restoration of the status quo which existed before the ‘hostile’ takeover, and also wanted an independent inquiry as to how armed forces entered the club premises.
“The Editors Guild of India is aghast at the manner in which the office and the management of the Kashmir Press Club, the largest journalists’ association in the Valley, was forcibly taken over by a group of journalists with the help of armed policemen on January 15, 2022,” the EGI said in a statement.
On Saturday a group of journalists led by Mohammad Salim Pandit, working with a national daily, and flanked by police entered the Kashmir Press Club in Srinagar and declared themselves to be the new interim body of the KPC, which will hold elections for the new club.
Although the 2-year-term of 11-member executive and management body of the 300-member strong club, which was elected in 2019, had ended last year in July they said they could not conduct fresh elections immediately owing to mandatory re-registration of the club which was asked by the authorities.
The takeover by the ‘disgruntled’ group, alleged to be supported by the local administration, had come a day after the administration suspended the KPC’s re-registration certificate – which had been issued by the authorities after seven months on December 29 – following an adverse CID report. The re-registration was suspended after the club’s elected interim body on January 13 had decided to initiate the process of fresh elections and also announced the date.
Nine journalists’ bodies of Kashmir, including the elected Kashmir Press Club body, have termed the takeover as “illegal and arbitrary”. The head of the ‘disgruntled’ group Salim Pandit said that the term of the present press club had expired in July and the club was in a “mess”.
The EGI said it was alarmed by the “arbitrary order” of putting the registration of the KPC in “abeyance” as the club’s interim management had announced an election for a new management body as well as the executive committee.
The Mumbai Press Club also criticised the forcible takeover of the KPC and deplored the J&K administration’s ‘scuttling’ the club’s election process.
On Saturday, former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti blamed the BJP’s policies for undermining and demolishing the free press in Kashmir and blamed some journalists for forcibly taking over the Kashmir Press Club with help of the administration.
Reacting to the statements of the EGI and the MPC, the group said that instead of adhering to journalistic standards of verifying the other side of the story, the bodies came up with a “half-baked and sensational statement as if ”some government-sponsored coup” had really taken place.” The group said it was open to any scrutiny over the interim takeover but that “bias in the issuance of statements without verification of ground reality amounts to nothing but malicious propaganda.”