SRINAGAR: Students of journalism at Central University of Kashmir staged a peaceful sit-in demonstration on Tuesday at the time when JK Press Association organized an event at the University to “celebrate” the world press freedom day.
The demonstrators – second semester students of convergent journalism – stood up during the function as soon as Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, started speaking. The demonstrating students displayed placards, one of which read, “We are not celebrating world press freedom day, but mourning it.”
The Divisional Commissioner appreciated the students for raising their concern and said, “I was expecting such questions to be raised.” The students later walked out of the function and staged a sit-in in the University lawn.
Talking to media persons, they said there was ‘nothing to celebrate’ on the day as there was ‘no freedom of press’ in Kashmir. “It is an irony that the press freedom day is being celebrating in Kashmir, where journalists are not allowed the practice freely,” a demonstrator said. “What is more surprising is that the Divisional Commissioner talks about press freedom, and he is the same person who recently directed even WhatsApp news groups to seek permission.”
“Many times, we are beaten when we try to cover news here, which is the world’s most militarized region,” student Vikar Syed, who is also a working photojournalist, said. “The authority needs to be told that we are not going to resist it.”
Another student, Asiya Tabasum, said, “Journalists here don’t get proper access, and when they try hard, they end up being beaten.”
Mehraj Aslam, another student, said, “We want to send a message to world press bodies that something more needs to be done to liberate the press in Kashmir.”
The students raised concern over recent “gag” on media in Kashmir, particularly in Handwara town of north Kashmir, where some local journalists were “not allowed” to work freely. They also gave examples of the curbs put on proposed press conference at the office of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society recently.
The function was organized by the JK Press Association in collaboration with the Central University of Kashmir, at its Nowgam-I academic campus. Director Information, Muneer-ul-Islam, was also present on the occasion.