No curbs on news media in Jammu & Kashmir: Centre
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur on Thursday informed Parliament that no restrictions on any news media were imposed by the Centre in Jammu & Kashmir. Thakur was replying to a query in Rajya Sabha from Trinamool Congress MP Abir Ranjan Biswas, who asked if the Centre was aware of the Press Council of India's fact-finding committee report on news media in J&K.
- In September 2021, the Chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), Justice CK Prasad, constituted a fact-finding committee (FFC) based on a complaint by former J&K Chief Minister and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (JKPDP) President, Mehbooba Mufti.
- Mufti had alleged that security personnel and officials in Kashmir were intimidating journalists for their work.
- The committee submitted its report on March 8.
On a question about how many journalists from Jammu & Kashmir had reported harassment by authorities since 2017, Thakur asserted that there have been no cases of such harassment. However, he went on to say that action against anyone, regardless of their profession, involved in any activity that poses a threat to the country's security and sovereignty will be taken by law enforcement agencies.
In its report, the PCI's fact-finding team had stated that there are a number of journalists in J&K who had been individually harassed. The FFC observed that "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."
The report also included "specific recommendations" for J&K's administration for ensuring free space for the media's functioning. Among the key recommendations was the creation of forums to enable dialog between the administration and media so that "mutual suspicion is slowly eased." The FFC also urged the authorities to put an end to the harassment, arrests, and detention of journalists in Kashmir under "draconian laws."
The report also claimed that the police had revealed to the FFC that "as many as 49 journalists have been arrested and charged since 2016" by them. It pointed out that it was "not a small number considering that J&K has a very small press corps," adding, "Of these 8 have been arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act...which makes bail almost impossible."