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KEG wants charges against detained reporter made public

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‘Assembly being in suspended animation does not suspend freedom of speech’

Srinagar, Sep 03: Taking a strong exception to the notices being sent to the newspapers, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) on Monday asked the police to make public charges against a local journalist Aasif Sultan who was formally arrested after six-day detention.

The editors’ body also regretted that scribes are now being asked to disclose sources, which it said is something that has not happened even during the emergency.

In a statement issued here today, KEG reiterated that freedom of speech cannot be suspended even if the State Assembly is in suspended animation.

According to the statement, the Guild in a marathon meeting discussed and deliberated upon various developments which it said weakens the constitutional right of freedom of speech.

“While the newspapers have routinely started getting ‘notices’ to explain things that have gone into print, there are very disturbing reports about reporters being asked to disclose sources, something that has not happened even during the emergency,” KEG said.

It said recently a magazine journalist Aasif Sultan was detained. Police have registered a formal FIR after detaining him for six days. KEG believes the police must make public the charges against him.

The “incriminating material”, the police have stated in a routine statement is too vague to be accepted as a reason, KEG said.

It said the law enforcing agencies must understand the reality that every journalist’s laptop will have “incriminating” material because data collection is the fundamental activity of the reporters.

KEG reiterated that a reporter cannot be forced to reveal his sources and it is considered illegal across the democracies of the world.

The KEG also discussed in detail the situation that has emerged because of social media.

While the social media has the power of disrupting the routine life – as happened on August 30, on the issue of Article 35-A hearing, the emphasis of all the stakeholders must be to strengthen the formal media, it said, adding that it was media and not the police force that helped cool the situation by reporting the actual happening in the Supreme Court.

The editor’s body regretted that certain law-enforcing agencies do not understand the difference and are attempting using the same stick for all, which can add to the crisis.

Discussing the situation with regard to media, the KEG said that Jammu and Kashmir being in a state of disturbing situation for a long time must encourage conversation while information routinely flows.

The law-enforcing agencies must keep this in mind while “overreacting to the writings that come from the other side of the political divide.”

This, the members said, is essential in reducing the “pressure cooker” situation that is gradually building in Kashmir at huge social, economic and human costs.

The KEG also regretted that the police have not been able to file a charge-sheet in the broad daylight murder of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, so far — despite police claims of having solved the case.

The KEG also regretted that the institutions of facilitation of media are gradually limping towards becoming a centre of instability for the institution of media.

The editor’s body set up a series of committees to take care of certain crucial issues pertaining to the working of the media and decided about the outreach outside the print space so that role of media and social media is clearly demarcated and people educated about it.

It was also decided to have a “pro-active outreach plan for engaging the policymaking and the journalism aspirants for a better understanding of the media operations and the Kashmir story.”

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