Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar has asked media to not come close to encounter sites and cases where there is a law and order situation. Confirming the development on Wednesday, Kumar told Scroll.in he has issued directions to the media and ordered them to not carry live coverage of these incidents.
“The freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions that should not violate other person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy,” Kumar said. “Do not interfere in professional and bonafide duty of police and security forces at encounter site.”
The police officer also advised media to not carry any content that was likely to incite violence or promotes “anti-national sentiment.”
Several media bodies, including the Kashmir Editor’s Guild, Journalist Federation of Kashmir, Kashmir Press Club, Kashmir Journalists Association, have criticised the order.
The media bodies also urged Kumar to clarify his comments. They said that the police direction seems to be a tactic to coerce journalists from reporting facts on the ground. “It also seems to be a part of the string of measures taken by the authorities to suppress freedom of press in the region,” a statement issued by the media bodies said. “Summoning journalists to police stations, filing FIRs [first information reports] and seeking informal explanations for their work has intensified in the past two years.”
They said that the Kashmir media was aware of the journalistic guidelines and have upheld ethics during encounters, law and order situations.
“Covering and reporting law and order situations in the region is one of the basic requirements for most news organisations and hence an essential part of the professional role of media professionals,” the statement said. “Barring them from covering such events would mean stopping them from delivering their professional duties.”
The media bodies added that journalists in Kashmir have worked under tremendous pressure for the past several decades, despite facing threats to life, liberty and property.
“Press freedom is the cornerstone of a democracy and any attack on it undermines the democratic setup of which media is the fourth pillar,” the statement said. “Any such attack on press freedom and journalism is highly distressful.”