The Editors Guild of India on Tuesday said it is “deeply anguished” by the shutting down of the Kashmir Press Club.
The government on Monday cancelled the allotment of the Estates Department quarters housing the KPC after two rival factions of journalists claimed the management rights.
“The shutting down of the club is the latest act in a sequence of disturbing events, wherein the “re-registration” of the Club was first arbitrarily put “in abeyance” by the Registrar of Societies on January 14th, followed by the shocking breach of institutional norms when a group of people, with the active support of state police and
CRPF took over the office and management of the Club on January 15th,” EGI said in a statement.
“With the shutting down of the Club and government reverting the land back to the Estates Department, an important journalistic institution in a region that has seen the worst kind state heavy-handedness against any independent media has been effectively dismantled. Kashmir Press Club was established in 2018 and already had more than 300 members, making it the largest journalists’ association in the region.
Space for media freedom and active civil society has been steadily eroding in the region. Journalists frequently face intimidation from terror groups as well as the state. They are also charged under heavy penal laws, and are routinely detained by security forces for reporting or for their editorials, ” it added.
The EGI said that in a state “ridden with such excesses against media, Kashmir Press Club was an important institution for fighting for protection and rights of journalists”. “It also remained open through the lockdown, giving journalists access to important facilities like the internet for filing their work, as well as workshops for training of young journalists. The shutting down of the Club, therefore, sets a dangerous precedent for media freedom”.
The Guild reiterated its earlier demand that status quo before the January 14th order of Registrar of Societies be restored with respect to the functioning of the Club, and that the state works towards building and protecting the space for a free press.