Kashmir journalists protest top cop’s advice on covering encounters, stirs

Srinagar: A senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer has advised journalists not to interfere in police operations during encounters or other law and order situations and told them to stop live media coverage of anti-terrorist operations, triggering protests by the journalists. Inspector general of police (IGP) Kashmir range, Vijay Kumar, had sent out the advisory to WhatsApp groups of journalists on Tuesday.

“The freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions that should not violate other people’s right to life guaranteed under Art 21 or putting national security in jeopardy. Do not interfere in the professional and bonafide duty of police and security forces at the encounter sites. No operational content should be carried which is likely to incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of Law and Order or which promotes anti-national sentiment,” the statement attributing to Kumar said.

Earlier, Kumar had directed senior superintendents of police (SSP) to take action against journalists who violate the order.

The police officer’s advisory on coverage of anti-terror operations is in line with the 2015 advisory by the central government that asked news channels not to broadcast live anti-terror operations. The 2020 norms of journalistic conduct by the Press Council of India require the media to refrain from publishing or telecasting pictures in a manner that glorifies the perpetrators in the eyes of the public.

Around one dozen media organisations in Kashmir including Kashmir Press Club and Kashmir Editors Guild have criticised Vijay Kumar for his advisory, saying it appeared to be a tactic to “coerce” journalists.

A joint statement released by Kashmir Press Club 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,” reads the joint statement.

“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,” added the statement.

“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. Barring them from covering such events would mean stopping them from delivering their professional duties,” the statement said.

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. (Agency)

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