Attack on Mediapersons: PCI threatens legal action; Katju rejects JK Police version

By: Anil Anand
New Delhi, Dec 2: The Press Council of India (PCI) has taken serious exception to increasing incidents of attacks on mediapersons and has rejected the Jammu and Kashmir police’s version that during a recent incident some journalists were apparently hit as the cops were unable to differentiate them from the “unruly crowd” gathered on the spot.
PCI has threatened to launch criminal proceedings against police and paramilitary forces if they assaulted journalists discharging their duties during coverage of demonstrations and other incidents.
“The paramilitary forces and police in all states/union territories must be instructed not to commit any violence on mediapersons, otherwise they will face criminal proceedings which the Press Council will launch against them,” the Council Chairperson Markandey Katju wrote in a terse letter to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, copies of which were also sent to the union and the state governments. In the letter, Katju said he came to know about an incident in Kashmir where journalists were allegedly assaulted while they were covering a demonstration.
Katju said he is not going to accept violence on journalists by the police or paramilitary forces.
Referring to a report sent to the PCI by the Associated Press chief of bureau, Ravi Nessman, Justice Katju said that according to J&K Police version an unruly mob of about 300 to 400 youth armed with lathis and stones were told to disperse. But instead of doing so they hurled stones on the police that resulted in lathi charge.
Drawing Omar’s attention to the police version mentioned in Nessman’s report, he contested the police claim that journalists could not be differentiated from the rest of the mob. Rejecting the police theory, Justice Katju said, “I do not agree with the police version. I am informed that the journalists had video cameras and other equipments, which clearly distinguished them from the rest of the crowd. At any event, it is obvious that when a journalist is being attacked he is bound to tell the police that he is a journalist.”
“I sent you an email recently about the assault on some Kashmiri journalists in Srinagar, and asked you for your comments and the action you took in this connection. As yet I have not received any reply,” Katju told Omar referring to the incident of a police lathicharge on a mob of about 300 to 400 youth recently in Srinagar city.
Katju said that according to the police report, the journalists could not be differentiated from the rest of the mob but he observed that this was not an argument that he would subscribe to.
Meanwhile, Justice Katju has written letters to the Union Cabinet and Home Secretaries, Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries/Home Secretaries of the states asking them to take appropriate measures to prevent violence against journalists. “It is the duty of the PCI under section 13 of the Press Council Act to uphold the freedom of the press. A journalist while covering an incident is only doing his job. He is like a lawyer who defends his client. Just as a lawyer cannot be equated with his client, so also a journalist cannot be equated with the crowd,” Justice Katju observed.


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