Tourists 'Welcome' in J&K, but Press Council’s Fact-Finding Team Asked to Wait

The J&K government has informed the Press Council of India that its fact-finding team can visit only after November 4.

New Delhi: Just two days after Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik directed the withdrawal of the advisory issued on August 2 asking all tourists to leave the state in the lead up to the reading down of Article 370, the additional secretary to the government of J&K informed the Press Council of India (PCI) that its fact-finding team can visit the state only after November 4.

The 28-member council had decided to send a four-member subcommittee to assess the situation. Toward this end, they wrote to the government of J&K on August 27.

The response from the additional secretary, received on October 9 via email, says the council’s request was processed and “keeping in view the present security scenario in the state and due to move of offices from Srinagar to Jammu,” the sub-committee could visit the state any day after November 4.

Responding to the additional secretary’s email, P.K. Dash, convenor of the PCI’s sub-committee, told the state government that the date for the Press Council team’s proposed visit to the state is October 12 to October 17. However, is not clear if the team will travel as scheduled in the light of the state government’s reluctance to have it visit the Valley now.

PCI has been in the eye of the storm ever since chairman Justice C.K. Prasad unilaterally intervened in a petition filed in the Supreme Court by Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin demanding an end to communications restrictions in the state. The move drew strong condemnation from top media bodies and individual journalists, including present and former members of the council.

Also read: The Failing Art of Selling Normalcy in Kashmir

Media bodies that criticised the PCI chairman’s move include Editors Guild of India, Press Association, Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), Indian Journalists Union, Working News Cameraman Association, Press Club of India, National Alliance of Journalists and the Delhi Union of Journalists. The chairman’s move came as a shock to even current members of the council, who stated that they had not even been informed about the intervention.

In what appeared to be a face-saving move following bitter criticism, the PCI had reversed its position. It proposed to present a plea before the apex court that, “the Council stands for the freedom of the press and does not approve of any sort of restriction on the media. A detailed reply shall be filed on receipt of the report of the sub-committee”.