The Kashmir Press Club, the biggest organisation of journalists in the valley, witnessed a coup on Saturday with a group of members removing its ad-hoc body and taking over the control with alleged help from armed policemen. The controversial takeover took place a day after the Jammu and Kashmir government suspended the registration of the Club citing adverse reports by Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of J&K police.
Reports say that the illegal interim body has closed the club - which remained open and functional at the peak even during the deadly waves of the Covid pandemic - to journalists.
Omar Abdulllah, former Chief Minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, has called it a "state sponsored coup".
The Editors Guild Of India has expressed strong reservation at the goings-on at the Club.
"The Editors Guild of India is aghast at the manner in which the office and the management of Kashmir Press Club, the largest journalists' association in the Valley, was forcibly taken over by a group of journalists with the help of armed policemen on January 15, 2022," it said in a statement.
The Club had been issued a fresh re-registration as recently as December 29, 2021, but the administration decided to withdraw it a day after the journalist body announced to hold elections of the Press Club. The Guild said it is equally "alarmed by an arbitrary order of putting the registration of the Kashmir Press Club in abeyance, a day before this armed take over of the Club on January 14, 2022, by the Registrar of Societies".
"Even more disturbingly, the state police entered the premises without any due warrant or paperwork, and have therefore been brazenly complicit in this coup, in which a group of people have become self-declared management of the Club," the Guild said.
The violation of the sanctity of the Club by the police and the local administration, the Guild said, is a manifestation of the continuing trend to smother press freedom in the state.
"Editors Guild demands immediate restoration of the status quo before this hostile takeover, announcement of elections to appoint a new management body and executive council, and strict prohibitions on any armed forces from interfering with the functioning of the Club, without due legal sanction," it further said.