Srinagar, March 14: Jammu and Kashmir Press Corps (JKPC), a well-known body of valley-based newspapers vehemently denounced the Press Council of India’s (PCI’s) fact-finding committee’s report.
Media has reported that the committee has suggested that the government is curbing press freedom in the valley. JKPC dubbed the PCI report as false and malicious.
In a statement. JKPC said a fact-finding committee (FFC) of the PCI, comprising Prakash Dubey, Suman Gupta, and Gurbir Singh visited the valley in October last year.
However, JKPC said they are deeply shocked, pained, and anguished over selective leaks. JKPC said the FFC report is not only factually incorrect and defamatory but has been written with complete malice and malafide.
“It appears that FFC has written the report only to create sensation to defame editors and newspapers without taking into account their deposition and subsequent narration of truth. The truth as told by prominent editors has been conveniently erased by the FFC from the report. In breach of every established norm of free and fair investigation and complete negation of the guidelines and ethics of such probe, FFC concluded its report without incorporating the version of editors, publishers, and journalists who appeared before it,” JKPC said.
JKPC said they have always advocated for press freedom. “Situation for journalists working in the Kashmir Valley has vastly improved since the abrogation of article 370. Media is growing in Kashmir valley and several new news outlets have been launched after 2019. This was conveyed by leading publishers to FFC during the meeting but they have conveniently suppressed those facts in the reports. It appears that FFC came with a prejudiced mindset to malign the image of Kashmir-based editors who have undergone despicable sufferings before August 2019. The report has also done a great disservice to the people by falsely claiming that newspapers are pressurized to carry government handouts. The entire tone, tenor, and phraseology of said report are misleading and laden with premeditated fatal misstatements about Kashmir-based newspapers. There is no basis on which the inferences have been drawn by the FFC,” JKPC said.
That with complete mal-intent and to mischievously sensationalize and defame, the FFC report makes the following scandalous and defamatory assertions-
(i) News media in the Jammu & Kashmir region and especially in the Valley is slowly being choked mainly because of the extensive curbs imposed by the local administration.
(ii) There is a long list of journalists who have been individually harassed. The object is to create fear and intimidation to fall in with the government line.
(iii) Suspicion that a large number of local journalists are sympathizers of the militants
(iv) The constant harassment they faced in the line of duty from security forces. These ranged from accusations of aiding the ‘separatists’ to lengthy interrogation in police camps to detention and arrests for circulating ‘fake news.
(v) In the guise of information gathering, threats and various forms of intimidation by the police have become part of the new ‘normal’ in the Kashmir valley, particularly after the imposition of central rule since August 2019.
JKPC took strong exception to these remarks.
“In Kashmir valley alone we have around 100 daily newspapers and 48 weekly newspapers. The government or its representatives have never interfered in the functioning of the newsroom. The use of the word ‘Choked’ is highly objectionable and defamatory for newspapers as they are operating with complete freedom. The reference to the ‘government curb’ is a deliberate attempt to defame us and make truth a casualty. The whole structure of the report is to create a false perception and an environment of prejudice against newspapers. We have already made it clear in our meeting with FFC that no bonafide journalists have been harassed or summoned by police but again this fact too has been buried by the Committee members,” JKPC said.
JKPC said the FFC report further goes to maliciously state about “intimidation by the police since August 2019′.
“We take strong offence to the use of the term ‘Intimidation by police since August 2019.’ JKPC wants to make it clear that the PCI-appointed committee appears to have been misled by some vested interest operating under the guise of journalists. The entire report is patently slanderous, disgraceful, and atrocious targeting hardworking journalists and editors. If FFC had taken into account the version of leading newspapers and editors instead of selectively picking lines from random deposition, our reputation would not have been compromised by a bundle of lies. Unfortunately, FFC has deliberately allowed itself to become a tool for furthering nefarious design of certain elements,” JKPC said.
JKPC said they hold the PCI in great esteem and expected the FFC to adhere to the highest and strictest standard of ethics in publishing the report without being affected by attempts of vested interests to spread innuendoes and misinformation against Kashmir-based newspapers.
“Due to this report, we have suffered in our reputation and have been lowered in the estimation of the general public. We call upon Hon’ble PCI Chairman to withdraw the report in entirety and incorporate our version before re-publishing it, if the report circulating in the public domain is the actual report submitted by FFC members,” JKPC further stated.