January 23, 2022

Restore Independence of Kashmir Press Club, says DUJ

THE Delhi Union of Journalists(DUJ) said it is dismayed at the government move to close the Press Club of Kashmir. The DUJ issued a press note in this regard on January 16th.

The DUJ pointed out that press clubs everywhere are information hubs where journalists exchange information and views, enabling them to perform their jobs better. They are also places where journalists stop and rest between hectic deadlines, while they wait for the next interview, the next press briefing. Press clubs therefore are invaluable for the profession.  In Kashmir, where journalism is a tough, risky, dangerous profession, the press club has played a vital role.

In a statement signed by S K Pande, president and Sujata Madhok, secretary of DUJ stated, “The authorities had renewed the license of the Kashmir Press Club on December 29, 2021, after the issue had hung fire for months.  Once the renewal notice was received the press club belatedly announced elections.  Now the license renewal has been suddenly cancelled, ostensibly because of an adverse CID report. This volte face is inexplicable.”

The DUJ said that it is singularly unfortunate that a division seems to have been created within journalists, with a small faction ‘taking over’ the club when Srinagar was under a lockdown.  Police and paramilitary personnel were deployed during this process.  Several associations of Kashmir journalists have signed a joint statement objecting to this ‘takeover’ of the premises.

The DUJ condemned the arbitrary arrests, detentions and questioning of journalists in Kashmir, which they said continues unabatedly. On January 5, 2022 Sajad Gul, a trainee journalist with Kashmir Walla, was arrested for fomenting anti-government feelings. Last year Salman Shah and Suhail Dar were arrested for ‘breach of peace’. Journalist Aasif Sultan has been in jail since August 27, 2018 and awaits trial.   

The DUJ called for greater democracy and freedom of the press in Kashmir. The developments in the Kashmir Press Club is one more reprehensible attempt to intimidate journalists, the press statement pointed out. The DUJ demanded immediate restoration of the club to the duly elected office bearers and a renewal of the license.  There must be no government interference in the running of a journalists’ club.