Jammu and Kashmir bans live coverage, journalists in protest

Jammu and Kashmir police on Wednesday asked media persons not to carry any live coverage of encounter sites or any other law and order situation.

The order is issued on the pretext of the encounter that took place between militants and security forces. An encounter has broken out between security forces and militants in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district. Two-three militants are believed to be trapped in the exchange of gunfire taking place in the Jan Mohalla in the Shopian town.

The Jammu and Kashmir police has banned the “live” coverage of all encounters between the security forces and separatist militants and of “law and order situations”, but used a somewhat obnoxious phrase to justify its plan to keep reporters and photographers away.

IGP (Kashmir Zone) Vijay Kumar has enjoined upon media persons not to interfere in professional and bona fide duties of the security forces at sites of encounters and during law and order situations.

He said no operational context should be carried which is likely to incite violence or which promotes anti-national sentiments. “Don’t interfere in the professional and bona fide duty of police and the security forces at encounter sites,” IGP Ajay Kumar told the media.

Mr. Kumar further added, “The media persons should not carry any live coverage of any encounter or law and order situation. Freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions that should not violate other persons’ right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or put national security in jeopardy. Do not interfere in the professional and bona fide duty of the police and security forces at encounter sites.”

He was also quoted as saying that no operational content should be carried that was “likely to incite violence or contains anything against the maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national sentiments.”

Around one dozen media organizations in Kashmir including Kashmir Press Club and Kashmir Editors Guild have criticized Vijay Kumar for his advisory, saying it appeared to be a tactic to “coerce” journalists. “If this is a part of the official policy of the police, it appears to be a tactic to coerce journalists into not reporting the facts on the ground.”

A joint statement released by Kashmir Press Club and various Valley-based media organizations on Wednesday evening said the media in Kashmir was aware of the journalistic guidelines, ethics and situations such as encounters and have always upheld these principles.

“It also seems to be a part of the string of measures taken by the authorities to suppress freedom of the press in the region. Summoning journalists to police stations, filing FIRs and seeking informal explanations for their work has intensified in the past two years. Journalists in Kashmir have worked under tremendous pressure for the past several decades and despite facing threats to life, liberty and property, they upheld the principles of journalism and reporting,” reads the joint statement.

The statement further added, “Press freedom is the cornerstone of a democracy and any attack on it undermines the democratic setup, of which the media is the fourth pillar. Any such attack on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful. In this backdrop, journalist bodies in Kashmir urge Mr. Kumar to put the record straight and clarify the statement attributed to him.”

The statement asked for clarification on the IG’s statement and asked the police officer to set the record straight and clarify the statement attributed to him.

There have been incidents where journalists in Kashmir have alleged harassment at the hands of security forces. Recently, in a widely-circulated video, a policeman was seen kicking a photojournalist in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district while clashes between security forces and stone-throwing youth were on in the area near an encounter site.

References:

Times Now

Hindustan Times

Deccan Chronicle

Image Sources:

• DNA

• Business Standard

• PTI

• Times Now

Kaniz Fatima

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