Press Association Criticises PCI Chairman’s 'Unilateral Action' to Back J&K Media Restrictions

Two members of the media watchdog expressed “utter surprise” that the council was not taken into confidence in “such a grave matter”.

New Delhi: The Press Association, the only association of accredited journalists in India, has taken a serious view the “unilateral action” taken by the Press Council of India’s (PCI) chairman Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad by seeking to intervene in a writ petition filed by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin in the Supreme Court.

As reported by The Wire on Friday, the PCI chairman sought permission from the apex court to intervene in the matter without even informing the council, much to the chagrin of at least two of its current members.

Also Read: Press Council Intervenes in SC Petition to Back Media Restrictions in J&K

Bhasin had filed a writ petition in the apex court on August 10 challenging curbs on media freedom in Jammu & Kashmir. She sought directions to immediately relax all restrictions on mobile, internet and landline services to enable journalists to perform their duties.

Jaishankar Gupta and C.K. Nayak, two members of the Press Association who are also current members of the PCI, expressed “utter surprise” that the council was not taken into confidence in “such a grave matter”. Gupta is president of the association and Nayak is the general secretary. In a written statement, they revealed that the full council met on August 22 for the entire day but there was “no mention” of the petition which had been filed in the SC during the meeting.

The statement says that the council members had, in fact, moved a resolution on the prevailing media situation in J&K. They claim that this matter was not even taken up for consideration nor was the members’ opinion sought. “The council constituted a committee to look into the media situation in J&K but the chairman never mentioned anything about the writ petition in the meeting,” it said.

Laying out the twin objectives of the PCI – maintaining freedom of the press and improving standards of journalism – the statement pointed out that “no newspaper could be published nor could any agency function” in the state since August 5.

Calling PCI’s intervention backing media restrictions “a shameful abdication of its responsibilities,” Krishna Prasad, former editor of Outlook magazine and a former member of the Press Council, had criticised the move.

“If the Press Council – set up by an act of parliament i.e. in the name of the people – sees a free and open media as a threat to the nation’s ‘sovereignty’, and if it believes readers and viewers can and ought to be kept in the dark in special situations, it is a sad day for Indian democracy, although it would not surprise anybody that things have come to such a pass,” he told The Wire on Friday.