The Editors Guild of India on Saturday said the advisory by the Jammu and Kashmir Police forbidding journalists from reporting from encounters sites was “draconian and undemocratic”, and must be withdrawn immediately.
The guild said the notice was an attempt by the security forces to escape from any kind of media scrutiny in the conflict-torn region.
On April 7, Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar, warned journalists against coming close to gunbattle sites with suspected militants in the real-time. Kumar claimed such media reportage is “likely to incite violence” or could promote “anti-national sentiment”.
He added, “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.”
In a statement released on Saturday, the Editors Guild said that “nothing can be further from the truth”.
“Visibly, the police is giving an impression of trying to maintain peace by attempting to control the fallout of violence in a high strung environment, but what is being instead done is an attempt by the security forces to escape from any kind of media scrutiny about the flow of events behind the violence,” it said.
The Guild said that live reporting from conflict areas, including encounters between security forces and militants, is one of the most important journalistic duties of any responsible media, and requires extreme grit and determination on the part of reporters.
At best, there may be some guidelines that can be issued with respect to reporting from such scenes, with the aim of protecting the integrity of tactics and plans of security agencies, it said.
A set of guidelines could also be put in place to avoid journalists from interfering with the evolving situation and from sensationalising the matter, similar to the norms adopted by responsible governments around the world, the Guild added.
“In this respect, the advisory of Kashmir Police is draconian and undemocratic, and flies in the face of the stellar role journalists have played in reporting conflict in the country,” it said. “Therefore the advisory must be withdrawn immediately.”