A fact finding committee (FFC) of the Press Council of India (PCI) has confirmed that the “news media in Jammu & Kashmir especially in the Kashmir Valley is slowly being choked mainly because of the extensive curbs imposed by the local administration”.
The FFC was set up in September 2021 by then PCI chairman Justice (retd) C K Prasad to look at the state of the media in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir after PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti wrote to the Council.
“There is a long list of journalists who have been individually harassed. The object is to create a fear and intimidation to fall in with the government line,” the FFC committee has said in its report that was submitted last week.
According to the report, normal lines of communication between the local administration and journalists have been disrupted because of the government’s suspicion that a large number of local journalists are sympathizers of the freedom cause.
Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had claimed the FFC that many journalists were of ‘pro-freedom or anti-India’ persuasion”, the report says.
The three-member committee, comprising Prakash Dubey, Suman Gupta, and Gurbir Singh, recorded “numerous cases of journalists being subject to interrogation, threatened and made to fill irrelevant profiling documents”.
Some journalists had been “summoned to the dreaded ‘Cargo Centre Srinagar’ for questioning — a location reserved for interrogation for armed groups”, the report said. Many journalists spoke about “the constant harassment they faced in the line of duty from Indian forces and police personnel. These ranged from accusations of aiding the ‘liberation struggle’ to lengthy interrogation in police camps, to detention and arrests for circulating ‘fake news’”, it said.
The police had “conceded to the FFC that as many as 49 journalists have been arrested and charged since 2016, not a small number considering that J&K has a very small press corps.
“Of these, 8 have been arrested under the black law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which makes bail almost impossible. The police made case is that many journalists indulge in ‘anti-India and pro-freedom activities.”