The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday issued a statement against the Press Council of India’s decision to support the media restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. The association expressed grave concerns about the press council’s decision, saying that it had failed to speak up for press freedom and was “perversely arguing for a media clampdown in the name of national interest”.
“This, at a time when reporters on the ground are being targeted for doing their job,” the statement read. “Specifically the Guild expects the chairman of the Press Council of India to rescind his unilateral decision, apparently without consulting Council members, to intercede in a case in the Supreme Court concerning extreme and unrelenting restrictions placed on the media in Jammu and Kashmir.”
The guild urged the press council to objectively assess the difficult circumstances in which the media was working in Jammu and Kashmir “and lend its moral and institutional weight to help ease the restrictions that stand in the way of fair and accurate reporting”.
The association also highlighted the importance of a free media, whose “reliable feedback loop” to those in the government keeps citizens well-informed. It said that a free media also acted as a “safety valve” for critical expressions that can grow if they are suppressed.
Earlier this week, the Press Council of India had reportedly asked the Supreme Court’s permission to intervene in a plea filed by the Kashmir Times editor that demanded that the restrictions be removed. The press council, in its petition, supported the ban on media and said it was “in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of the nation”.
Members of the council said that the chairperson had violated rules by not consulting them. A group of journalists also voiced concerns about the press council’s support for media restrictions. The journalists said it appeared that the council was abrogating its constitutional responsibility towards standing for press freedom.
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