The Editors Guild of India released a statement on Tuesday, 18 January, stating that it is “deeply anguished” by the shutting down of the Kashmir Press Club by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday had announced that the allotment of premises to Kashmir Press Club at Polo View, Srinagar will be cancelled. Further, the control of land and buildings of the club, which rests with the Estates Department, will now revert to the same.
"With the shutting down of the Club and government reverting the land back to the Estates Department, an important journalistic institution in a region that has seen the worst kind of state heavy handedness against any independent media, has been effectively dismantled."Statement by the Editors Guild of India
The Editors Guild said that the shutting down of the club "is the latest act in a sequence of disturbing events" and condemned “the shocking breach of institutional norms when a group of people, with the active support of state police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), took over the office and management of the Club” on Saturday.
On Saturday, nearly a day after the Registrar of Societies and Firms kept the re-registration of the Kashmir Press Club in abeyance, a group of journalists, led by Saleem Pandit, had staged a 'coup,' taking over the reigns of Kashmir's largest press ensemble.
'Protect Space for a Free Press'
The Editors Guild has urged for the complete restoration of status quo with respect to the functioning of the club before the Registrar of Societies order, and urged Jammu and Kashmir to work towards “building and protecting the space for a free press.”
Journalists frequently face intimidation from terror groups as well as the State and are charged with heavy penal laws for reporting, it said.
Listing a series of incidents that show that the "space for media freedom and active civil society has been steadily eroding in the region," the Editors Guild said that the Kashmir Press Club was an "important institution for fighting for protection and rights of journalists."
It added that the shutting down of the club "sets a dangerous precedent for media freedom."
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