The Press Council of India (PCI) has constituted a three-member fact finding committee in response to former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s letter to the media body to send a fact finding team to Kashmir regarding ‘harassment and intimidation of journalists’ by the administration.
The three-member committee includes Prakash Dubey, convener and group editor of Daink Bhaskar, Gurbir Singh, The New Indian Express, and Dr Suman Gupta, editor of Jan Morcha.
The PCI has said that the committee is required to make a thorough probe into the matter and hold discussions with the affected journalists, the authorities concerned and gather information as it deems fit to submit its report to the council at the earliest.
It has requested the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to extend full cooperation and assistance to this fact finding committee.
The Mufti was quick to thank the PCI for responding to her letter. “Thankful to the @PressCouncil_IN for their decision to constitute a fact finding committee to probe journalists being harassed in J&K. Hope the local administration ensures their full cooperation so that this committee can discharge its duty. (sic),” she said in a tweet.
On Monday, Mufti in a letter to the PCI had said that raids were conducted by police at homes of several journalists in Kashmir earlier this month. “Personal items such as electronic gadgets including phones and laptops were illegally seized along with ATM cards and passports of their spouses,’’ the letter said.
It said this comes close on the heels of the harrowing experiences that the journalist community in Jammu and Kashmir had been subject to post the abrogation of Article 370 by the central government.
The letter said reportedly 23 journalists had been put on the Exit control list.
It said even students who bag scholarships in prestigious colleges in top universities of the world are not allowed to go and study there. “Recently a student was deboarded from a plane, arrested and subsequently released.”
It said 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. Mufti said reporting truth to power is being criminalised with every passing day.
“I strongly believe that the journalists working and reporting in J&K are amongst the bravest in the world especially at a time when a large section of the Indian media has become a propaganda extension of the Central Government,’’ the letter said.
It said unfortunately this is a diabolical method to perpetuate the communal mindset throughout the country in order to gain political mileage and relevance by demeaning and marginalising an entire community.
“One had hoped that the Press Council of India would take a suo moto note of these widely reported incidents, but it seems that no established watchdog forum, including the courts, has taken any interest in the painful circumstances created in J&K, not to speak of any interventions,’’ the letter said.