Kashmir Press Club Locked Even As Major Journalist Bodies Condemn ‘Forcible Take Over’
“The aim of the coup is to control an independent club by people who enjoy backing and patronage from the government forces and administration.”
SRINAGAR — A day after the Kashmir Press Club was ‘ ‘arbitrarily taken over’ by a group of ‘journalists’, the club has been locked by the authorities.
On Sunday, the club gate was locked and no journalist was allowed to enter the premises.
Shuja ul Haq, the elected president of the club has sought the intervention of New Delhi appointed Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, and said that he was flooded with calls and messages on Sunday from the journalists and members of Press Club, who expressed their anguish as the club was locked from outside and no member was allowed to enter the club.
Kashmir-based journalists and journalist bodies have expressed anguish over the “forcible takeover” of the Kashmir Press Club and termed it ‘arbitrary’.
As reported on Saturday, a group of “journalists” with the help of paramilitary forces and police personnel barged into the premises of Kashmir Press Club (KPC) and “arbitrarily” announced themselves as “an interim body” of the club.
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The group included M Saleem Pandit, a Times of India journalist, Zulfikar Majid of Deccan Herald and Arshad Rasool, editor of a little-known Urdu newspaper, Daily Gadyal. The trio announced M Saleem Pandit as the president, Majid as general secretary, and Rasool as treasurer of the club.
The Kashmir journalist bodies have alleged that the group conducted the takeover with the help of the local administration.
The journalists across Kashmir who are upset about the illegal and arbitrary takeover called the action a “coup”, and are apprehensive that it is an attempt to further “choke the already stifled freedom of the press” in Kashmir.
Noted journalist, Gowhar Geelani said that the aim of the “coup” is to control an independent club by people who enjoy backing and patronage from the government forces and administration. He said that such examples of illegal takeovers of institutions were either witnessed in “Hitler’s Germany or in Stalin’s Russia”.
Meanwhile, the different independent press bodies from across India, including the Press Club of India, Delhi Union of Journalists, Editors Guild of India, while seeking intervention from the local LG administration, condemned the act and sought restoration of the independence of the Press Club and demanded the felicitation of a peaceful process of elections.
“Press Club of India is deeply concerned with the developments with Kashmir Press Club. We demand that the democratic process of holding elections be allowed in a peaceful manner. We appeal to Hon Jammu and Kashmir LG Manoj Sinha to look into the matter and facilitate elections,” PCI tweeted.
Delhi Union of Journalists, in an issued statement, said that the Press Club has played a vital role at a place like Kashmir where journalism has been a tough, risky, and dangerous profession.
“We call for greater democracy and freedom of the press in Kashmir today. We view the developments in the Kashmir Press Club as one more reprehensible attempt to intimidate journalists. We demand 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,” the statement read.
The regional politicians, while calling the forcible takeover of the Press Club shameful and a coup, also condemned the act.
“Today’s state-sponsored coup at KPC would put the worst dictators to shame. State agencies here are too busy overthrowing elected bodies & firing govt employees instead of discharging their actual duties. Shame on those who aided & facilitated this coup against their own fraternity [SIC],” JKPDP president, Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.
National Conference president, Omar Abdullah, tweeted, “There is no government this “journalist” hasn’t sucked up to & no government he hasn’t lied on behalf of. I should know, I’ve seen both sides very closely. Now he’s benefited from a state-sponsored coup [SIC].” Omar was apparently referring to the self-appointed interim president Saleem Pandit.
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