The Indian Journalists Union and three of its members who have been nominated to the Press Council of India (PCI) have criticised Chairperson Justice (retd) CK Prasad’s attempt to intervene in a plea seeking an end to restrictions on the media in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to Scroll.in, Indian Journalists Union President and Press Council of India member D Amar, IJU Secretary General and International Federation of Journalists Vice President Sabina Inderjit, and two Press Council members, Balwinder S Jammu and M Majid have released a statement saying that the chairperson of PCI should have consulted the other members of the council before writing to the SC.
The move, according to the union, undermined the credibility of the PCI and went against the primary aim of the institution, which is to protect the freedom of press, the report said.
Balwinder Jammu told Scroll.in that the chairperson did not inform the council of his decision to file this petition, despite the fact that it went completely against what the rest of the council wanted. The council had reportedly wanted to pass a resolution “seeking the government to withdraw the communication restrictions and allow free coverage in Jammu and Kashmir”.
“This is shocking. We will decide what to do next. The PCI should withdraw the petition it has filed already and move a new petition that will uphold free speech and seek the removal of restrictions,” Jammu said, according to the report.
"The main issue is that this is not PCI's considered view to move the application. Before moving the application, PCI was not taken into confidence. Chairman says it was matter of urgency that it why it was done. But the problem is that there was a meeting on August 22, but it was brought up there," Press Council member Jaishankar Gupta told PTI.
Media Bodies Slam Action
Media bodies such as the Indian Women's Press Corps and the Press Association described the PCI's move to approach the Supreme Court as a "unilateral action".
The IWPC, in a statement, said it condemns the "unilateral action" of the PCI chairman, Justice Prasad, in seeking intervention on behalf of the PCI in a writ petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin in the Supreme Court.
Justice Prasad did not confide or even discuss with other members of the PCI before taking this far reaching step, it said.
On Tuesday, there will be a joint meeting of media bodies such as IWPC, Press Association and Press Club of India to discuss the media scenerio in Kashmir and PCI's intervention is the Supreme Court is also likely to come up.
What Did Press Council Do?
The Press Council of India had written to the Supreme Court seeking permission to intervene in a petition by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin, which seeks an end to the restrictions on media in Jammu and Kashmir in the light of the abrogation of Article 370.
The statutory body, in its appeal, said the restrictions were “in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of the nation”.
“In the interest of the freedom of the press as well as in the national interest,” the PCI said that it would want to present its views so as to help the court decide on Bhasin’s petition, reported The Wire.
What Does Anuradha Bhasin’s Petition Say?
On 10 August, Bhasin filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against the communication blackout in Jammu and Kashmir post the abrogation of Article 370. The petition seeks:
- Immediate relaxation of all restrictions on mobile, internet and landline services.
- Relaxation of restrictions on the free movement of journalists and media personnel in the state.
According to Bhasin, these curbs on media freedom have “resulted in a virtual blackout, and media reporting and publishing (was) grievously impacted”.
What Does The PCI’s Petition Say?
To make its point stronger, the PCI’s petition points to the Norms of Journalistic Conduct framed by the council.
Under this, the reportage of any matter which is of “paramount national, social or individual interests” will be self regulated and there will be a lot caution taken in presenting the any news, comment or information that might jeopardise, endanger or harm these paramount interests.
‘It is a Sad Day for Indian Democracy’
Many other journalists also took to Twitter to express their disappointment in the Press Council of India.
(With Inputs From The Wire, PTI and Scroll. in.)