The Delhi Union of Journalists(DUJ) is dismayed at the government move to close the Press Club of Kashmir. Press Clubs everywhere are information hubs where journalists exchange information and views, enabling them to perform their jobs better. They are also places where journalists stop and rest between hectic deadlines, while they wait for the next interview, the next press briefing…..They are places to get an affordable meal and a drink and socialize with colleagues. Press Clubs therefore are invaluable for the profession. In Kashmir, where journalism is a tough, risky, dangerous profession, the Press Club has played a vital role.
The authorities had renewed the license of the Kashmir Press Club on December 29, 2021, after the issue had hung fire for months. Once the renewal notice was received the Press Club belatedly announced elections. Now the license renewal has been suddenly cancelled, ostensibly because of an adverse CID report. This volte face is inexplicable.
It is singularly unfortunate that a division seems to have been created within journalists, with a small faction ‘taking over’ the Club when Srinagar was under a lockdown. Police and paramilitary personnel were deployed during this process. Several associations of Kashmir journalists have signed a joint statement objecting to this ‘takeover’ of the premises.
We also note that the arbitrary arrests, detentions and questioning of journalists in Kashmir continue unabated. On January 5, 2022 Sajad Gul, a trainee journalist with Kashmir Walla, was arrested for fomenting anti-government feelings. Last year Salman Shah and Suhail Dar were arrested for ‘breach of peace’. Journalist Aasif Sultan has been in jail since August 27, 2018 and awaits trial.
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.