There were fears among the journalist community in Kashmir that the “” of the Kashmir Press Club over the weekend was aimed at throttling press freedom. Many journalists believed that move was meant to deny working journalists a space to work, debate and assemble independently.
On Monday, Jammu and Kashmir administration to the Kashmir Press Club. The announcement was made in a press note that took cognisance of the recent ‘takeover’ of the club.
The note states: “The government is concerned over the emergent situation which has arisen due to the unpleasant turn of events involving two rival warring groups using the banner of the Kashmir Press Club.”
The note further elaborated on how the club ceased to exist as a registered body and its managing body came to a legal closure on 14 July 2021, the date on which its tenure came to an end. The note declared that since the club was not re-registered and elections were not held, some members of the club have therefore been “committing illegalities on several counts, least of which are false portrayal of being owner-managers of an entity which is no longer in legal vogue.”
While acknowledging the allegations that rival groups made against each other in the matter and the dispute that has arisen, the note states, “In view of the unpleasant developments and dissensions between various groups of journalists, it has been decided that the allotment of the premises at Polo View in view of the now deregistered Kashmir Press Club be cancelled and control of land and buildings situated at Polo View Srinagar which belongs to the estates department be reverted back to the said department.”
Commenting on the closure of the club, senior journalist at Outlook magazine Naseer Ganai said, “This is very unfortunate the way they have closed down it seemed they were looking for it for long, the press club had become a vibrant voice for journalists. It's closure will not end journalism in Kashmir. Journalists have been doing a tremendous job for years with or without a press club.”
These people by the roadside are hardworking journalists of Kashmir.— Aakash Hassan (@AakashHassan) January 17, 2022
They have been literally thrown out of Press Club, place they would sit at, sip coffee and tirelessly report the facts on the ground. Most affected are the freelancersâwho are doing the best journalism here. pic.twitter.com/2AJwaQGCxu
Peerzada Muzammil, sub editor at the Sunday Guardian, said, “The freedom of assembly, where journalists would meet and mentor young and aspiring journalists…shutting down that space is very shocking.”
Apart from this the note called for the creation of a registered society of all journalists, saying that the government hopes for, “a duly registered bona fide society of all journalists” and it “shall be constituted as soon as possible and the same shall be able to approach the government for reallocation of the premises.”
With inputs from Rayan Naqash.
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