The Press Council of India on Thursday constituted three-member fact finding committee to inquire into the allegations of intimidation and harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir.
The PCI letter stated that the three-member fact finding committee will inquire into the allegations of harassment and intimidation to journalists in Kashmir.
“The Hon'ble Chairman, Press Council of India while taking suo-motu cognisance on the communication of Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, President, PDP, concerning intimidation and harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir, has constituted a three member Fact Finding Committee,” reads the PCI order.
The members of the committee include Prakash Dubey, Convener and Group editor, Dainik Bhaskar, Gurbir Singh, Journalist, the New Indian Express and Dr. Suman Gupta, Editor, Jan Morcha,
“The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are requested to extend full cooperation and assistance to this Fact Finding Committee for the discharge of its function,” it reads.
The order stated that the Fact Finding Committee is required to make a thorough probe into the matter holding discussion with the concerned authorities and the affected journalists.
It also said information will be collected as it deems fit to submit its report to the Council at the earliest.
While journalist bodies in J&K are yet to react to the PCI order, journalists have welcomed the move saying it is good development.
“I hope the PCI sees the situation itself. There is a complete silence in the media. As a journalist you never know when you are going to be framed in any case, because it’s become normal for the administration to intimidate, harass, book and silence journalists using different tactics. These things have become worse in the past few months,” said a journalist, pleading anonymity.
The above journalist added: “It is good to see that the PCI finally has taken note of it. Let us see whether the PCI can do anything about it”
Another journalist said the cases filed by the police against journalists have no basis and they are implicating them for their writings.
The above quoted journalist said the cases filed against journalists should be treated as cases against the journalist community, and the PCI should provide legal assistance to the journalist bodies in Kashmir to contest these cases in the courts.
On Monday former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti wrote to the Press Council of India asking it to take notice of alleged harassment of journalists in Kashmir.
She had urged PCI to send a fact-finding team to J&K, to independently verify these claims and take remedial action.
“I am sure you are aware that raids were conducted by police at homes of several journalists in Kashmir earlier this month. Personal items such as electronic gadgets including phones & laptops were illegally seized along with ATM cards & passports of their spouses. This comes close on the heels of the harrowing experiences that the journalist community in Jammu and Kashmir has been subject to post the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government,” Mufti had written in her letter to PCI.
“Unwarranted harassment of journalists has become a norm & this policy has been implemented by raiding their homes, summoning & interrogating them on frivolous grounds such as innocuous tweets, conducting background checks of journalists and their family members by CID, withdrawal of benefits including accommodation of some senior journalists, seizure of mobile phones, laptops, confiscating passports , ATM cards etc,”stated the letter.
“Reportedly 23 journalists have been put on ECL. ( Exit control list ) Even students who bag scholarships in prestigious colleges in top universities of the world are not allowed to go study there. Recently a student was deboarded from a plane,arrested and subsequently released,” the letter said.
“In addition to this, a sizable number of journalists are either threatened or charged with sections under UAPA or sedition law, simply because their reportage on J&K does not cater to the PR stunts of the ruling dispensation. Reporting truth to power is being criminalised with every passing day,” it stated.
Mufti along with her letter had also enclosed a copy of a questionnaire that is served to the journalists, who are being currently investigated by the government, which journalists are supposed to reveal information about their political and religious allegiance.