Press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir is at stake again after the government cancelled allotment of the premises to the Kashmir Press Club, the largest membership organisation for mediapersons in the Valley, on Monday, 17 January.
In a dramatic sequence of events on 15 January, a group of Kashmiri journalists, apparently disgruntled over the delay in press club elections, “took over” the club and declared themselves as the “interim body”. Armed personnel of the J&K Police were posted both inside the club premises and outside the gate during the "coup".
In a statement, the faction alleged that the management committee of the club was delaying elections for "unknown reasons”, adding that the committee had placed the media fraternity in "unwanted trouble”.
What caused further alarm was that soon after the Kashmir Press Club was taken over, it was locked by the group, citing the COVID-19 weekend lockdown as the reason.
And then on 17 January, the J&K administration said in a series of tweets that the club, which was registered as a society in the erstwhile state, has “ceased to exist” after it “failed to reregister” under the Societies of Registration Act. The administration stated that the building out of which the club was being run was being taken away, thus erasing the press club from existence.
Media organisations across the country condemned the takeover, with the Editors Guild of India calling it an armed “coup," and the Press Club of India terming it “illegal”.
But why was the club taken over so dramatically? Were elections delayed for “unknown reasons” as the faction claims? And what does the sudden closure of the Kashmir Press Club mean for press freedom in the Valley?
For today’s episode, we speak to Sringar-based journalist Auqib Javeed, who was also an elected member of the ousted body. You will also hear from senior Kashmiri journalists such as Shahana Butt, Fawad Shah, Riyaz Masroor and Gowhar Geelani.
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