The Kashmir Press Club issued a statement today condemning attempts by the state authorities to "throttle information on coronavirus amid the unprecedented lockdown across the region".
The organisation pointed at a recent order by the director of health services, Kashmir, that ordered doctors and paramedics "not to share information with media about the ongoing crisis".
"The Kashmir Press Club notes with concern that the order invariably is nothing but a crude attempt at further stifling the freedom of the press in the region," the statement said. The club "expects the concerned government authorities to exchange information related to coronavirus crisis with media and journalists with more vigor as only free and transparent flow of information would facilitate an objective and accurate body of work by the journalists".
The Kashmir Press Club also said it stands by a recent statement from the Editors Guild of India that condemned the government's telling the Supreme Court that the media caused "panic" among migrant workers, leading to their mass exodus back home following the lockdown.
The Supreme Court subsequently directed media outlets to publish the government’s official version of developments pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak.
Here is the Kashmir Press Club's statement in full.
The Kashmir Press Club has taken serious note of the attempts by authorities to throttle information on coronavirus amid the unprecedented lockdown across the region.
Highlighting a recent gag order issued by Director Health Services, Kashmir ordering doctors and paramedics not to share information with media about the ongoing crisis, the management said stopping information flow amid the unprecedented situation is highly condemnable. It said that putting out information during pandemic through authentic print and electronic media is of vital importance as it helps to stop flow of unverified information and rumours.
The Kashmir Press Club notes with concern that the order invariably is nothing but a crude attempt at further stifling the freedom of the press in the region. Kashmir media has been playing its role responsibly by highlighting lack of facilities and protective gears for frontline health workers-doctors and paramedics-to ensure gaps are filled in dealing with the virus, which has consumed two lives so far in the region.
The KPC expects the concerned government authorities to exchange information related to coronavirus crisis with media and journalists with more vigor as only free and transparent flow of information would facilitate an objective and accurate body of work by the journalists.
The Kashmir Press Club also stands in support of the recent statement of Editors Guild of India wherein it has detested the attempts by the government to put a gag on media as far as reporting the Coronavirus crisis is concerned. Reiterating its stand, the KPC said that no democracy anywhere in the world is fighting this pandemic by gagging its media.
The KPC also urges the authorities concerned that they should facilitate the movement of journalists and media workers during the lockdown period to allow them unhindered access as the newspapers have already been categories as an essential service by the government.
It also condemns a recent incident wherein a reporter in Kulgam Umaisar Gul was thrashed by the security personnel when he was returning from Qazigund hospital in south Kashmir on March 30, 2020.The KPC demands action against the culprits involved in this incident.
The KPC would also urge its journalist members and media workers to take extreme precautions while reporting on coronavirus crisis.
As per the guidelines already issued by global health bodies and media advocacy groups (links below),the KPC urges the members, particularly the photo and video journalists who visit different places to follow the protocol for their safety and security.
The KPC reiterates that media needs to be more responsible in this crisis but it also needs a free and fair environment to report.
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