After drawing flak for filing an intervention application in the Supreme Court backing the media curbs in Jammu and Kashmir, the Press Council of India assured its members on Tuesday that it will support press freedom in the top court.
This was done through a letter issued by the PCI Secretary Anupama Bhatnagar to all the members of the Council, stating that the Council will stand for the freedom of press in the petition filed by Kashmir Times Executive Editor, Anuradha Bhasin.
The letter notifies that the Council has set up a "sub-committee to study the media scenario in J&K". While the sub-committees' report is awaited, the petition filed by Bhasin will be considered by the Supreme Court tomorrow. In these circumstances, it has been clarified that if asked in the court, the Council will submit that it "stands for the freedom of press and does not approve of any sort of restriction on the media".
Further, the Council will submit a detailed reply in the petition only after receipt of report of the sub-committtee. Meanwhile, the Secretary invited comments from all concerned members, before close of the office hours today, so that the advocate is apprised with the Council's stand.the media".
This move comes after protests by members of the Council against the intervention application, which seemingly took a stand against the reliefs sought by Bhasin. The opposing members said that the decision to intervene in the case was unilaterally taken by Chairman Justice (Retd) C K Prasad, a former judge of the Supreme Court, without taking the views of the Council as a whole.
Bhasin's petition seeks the lifting of information blackout and media curbs in the valley.
The PCI is a statutory body created as per the Press Councils Act 1978 with the objective to "preserve the freedom of press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in Inida".
In the intervention application, the PCI said that it was duty bound to ensure not only the freedom of press but also to "foster a sense of both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship" and "to keep under review any development likely to restrict the supply and dissemination of news of public interest and importance".
Few council members responded to the Secretary's letter by stating that the PCI should first withdraw its intervention application in SC as it was filed without the confirmation of the full council.