Editorial: Kashmir Press Club—Don’t Shut It, Set the Stage for Elections
The government needs to review its decision and restore the Kashmir Press Club to its elected members. The illegal coup party should be told to prepare for polls and for that, re-registration should be done.
Brushing aside the brouhaha created by the illegal takeover, the administration’s decision to hand over the Kashmir Press Club building to Estates Department has shocked scribes in Srinagar. The closure came on the heels of the ‘coup’ orchestrated by the ‘disgruntled members’ of the tribe. Even as the elected members thwarted the takeover bid with their own list of interim body, the locked gate has clearly sent the wrong signals around.
The shut space is already making many see this move through the larger unfolding pattern in the region. Even before some of the newsmen would follow the footsteps of the political deserters in the post-abrogation era, many were predicting the padlock.
Following the inevitable, there’s anguish over the hard-earned space’s suspended state, and rightly so. A battery of reporters literally rendered roofless—especially independent scribes operating from Srinagar—was anxiously waiting for the deadlock to end. But in the shade and shadow, the scribes could only watch their eviction. Even as terms and conditions have been applied, the unpopular move has become part of the pan-Kashmir story now.
Seen as an extension of the 2019 summer script in Kashmir, the decision came days after the press club members threw weight behind a trainee reporter from Hajin. Those part of the state questioned the press posturing on the “terror glorifier” now booked under Public Safety Act. This ever-growing questionable statist stance, notably, comes when the scribes are already facing regular background checks.
In “Naya Kashmir”, interestingly, newspersons are already learning new checks and balances, especially those part of the local news ecosystem. It may be true that journalists report what’s unfolding around them, but now most of them are treading with caution.
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Amid these altered equations on the ground, Kashmir Press Club’s closure is seen as an attempt to render the fourth pillar of democracy toothless in Kashmir. It’s true that journalists were doing their job even before this club, but padlocking it in the name of dispute looks a tad unfair.
At the end of the day, the takeover bid may be a well-orchestrated plan, as some scribes believe, to pave way for closure and rob scribes of their institutional voice, but it’s feared to backfire.
Sample this: On the heels of takeover and reports on it, some “Naya media” known to tag everyone with the perilous labels and yet get away from it, has come up with the crucifixion-style of profiling, a la “adverse report”. The free run of this vindictive journalism is bound to bring disrepute to the state that allows it. Critical voices should be heard, not hushed.
Those seeing journalists as “part of problem” should understand that reporting from the ground isn’t news-manufacturing or narrative-building. News is what it is—happening. And by covering it, newsmen are simply discharging their professional duties.
Rendering them roofless is to leave the ground open for quacks running amok for morsels and bent to create stunts and optics in the name of news mill.
And therefore, the government needs to review its decision and restore the Kashmir Press Club to its elected members. There should be no Ifs and Buts in it. The illegal coup party should be told to prepare for polls and for that, re-registration should be done.
Setting the stage for new elections should be the priority of the government right now, not shutting down the space.
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