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Kashmir Journalist Bodies Denounce Arbitrary Takeover of Press Club
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Kashmir Journalist Bodies Denounce Arbitrary Takeover of Press Club

“Months after getting the re-registration process done, the elected Press Club body announced elections. A day later J&K administration put the re-registration process in abeyance. A day later a ‘disgruntled group’ of journalists forcibly took over the Club by making the office members hostage.”

SRINAGAR — At least nine journalist bodies of Kashmir valley on Saturday denounced the forcible takeover of Kashmir Press Club by some “disgruntled” journalists and thereafter appointing themselves as “interim” body of the Club.

In a statement, the journalist bodies including Journalist Federation of Kashmir (JFK), Kashmir Working Journalists Association (KWJA), Kashmir Press Photographer Association (KPPA), Kashmir Press Club (KPC), Kashmir Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Kashmir Journalist Association (KJA), Kashmir Video Journalist Association (KVJA) and Jammu and Kashmir journalist association, said: “Majority of the Kashmir-based journalists has expressed anguish over the illegal and arbitrary takeover of the Kashmir Press Club by some journalists with open support from the local administration. On 15 January, the day when the administration had declared weekend lockdown in view of Covid surge, some journalists barged into the club office and forcibly took control of the club by keeping the office members hostage. Large number of police and paramilitary personnel were deployed beforehand for this highly condemnable and completely illegal move.

“The administration, by allowing few disgruntled elements to hoodwink the Club constitution and flout all norms of law, has set a wrong and dangerous precedent. The authorities had already communicated about the mandatory reregistration, which was initiated but it took authorities more than six monthsto verify the credentials of the management body. On 29 Decemeber, the reregistration was finally issued following that the Club decided to initiate the process of fresh elections and also announced the date. But all of a sudden a group of journalists, including some non members approached the district administration with a proposal for an “interim body” and it is followed by a communication from the government that the reregistration has been kept in abeyance.

“This move, in which a group of journalists self-appointed itself as an “interim body,” is uncivil, illegal, unconstitutional and without any precedence. It has been taken at a time when the process of registration is still pending before the authorities.

“All journalist bodies are unanimous in view that this unfortunate move by a disgruntled lot has set a dangerous precedent by forcing their way into the club office in violation of the KPC constitution and bylaws.

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“We appeal the press bodies across the country including Press Council of India, Press Club of India, Federation of Press Clubs and Editors Guild of India to take a strong note of how the local administration is supporting the lawlessness and throttling a democratic media body. If such incidents are allowed to happen with a Press Club in Kashmir this can be precedence for future.”

Pertinently, the president in question, Saleem Pandit’s membership was suspended on November 16, 2019 as part of disciplinary action for ringing disrepute to the prestige and undermining the authority of the Club.

On Saturday Pandit, along with other journalists in presence of government forces entered the Club and took over the premises. However, one of the members of the group said that the government forces present in and outside the club were part of the security detail of Pandit. Pandit is protected by the government forces.

The group of journalists after taking over the Club issued a statement. The statement reads: “With the Kashmir Press Club being defunct for the last six months when the tenure of the previously elected body ended, a new interim body was elected on Saturday January 15, 2022 with veteran journalist M Salim Pandit as the President. The three member body also includes journalists Zufliqar Majid as the General Secretary and Arshad Rasool as the treasurer of the Club till the elections are held in free and fair manner.”

“…Now therefore on January 15, 2022 various journalist organizations across Kashmir valley unanimously decided to form an interim body of three members with M Saleem Pandit as president, Zulfikar Majid, bureau chief of Deccan Herald as General Secretary and Arshid Rasool Editor Daily Gadyal as Treasurer of the Club till elections are held in free and fair manner.

“The interim body  besides running the day-to-day affairs of the Club,  will also be authorized to form a required executive body which will help the KPC to flourish and grow into a modern press club much in need with the growing requirements.”

Pertinently, the elected body of the Kashmir Press Club on January 14 informed that it received an order by the Registrar of Firms and Societies, Kashmir  informing that the re-registration certificate issued to the club on 29/12/2021 under Society Registration Act, 1860 has been kept in abeyance.

The said order was issued a day after the elected body of the Kashmir Press Club announced that the re-registration process of the KPC society has been completed. “The Government has communicated the same to the management last week. The club management had been waiting for this process to complete for last about six months. Since the process is complete now the existing management has decided to hold the elections for the new management body as mandated by the club’s registered constitution,” the body had said in a statement on January 13.

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