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Sabyasachi Kundu

New Delhi: The Editors Guild on Tuesday hit out at the Press Council of India's move to intervene in a case in the Supreme Court over the curbs on communication in Jammu and Kashmir, saying it is "gravely concerned" that the media watchdog is not only failing to speak up for press freedom but is perversely arguing in favour of a media clampdown.

The Guild, in a statement, said it expects the Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman C K Prasad to rescind his "unilateral decision", apparently taken without consulting Council members, to intercede in the case in the Supreme Court concerning extreme and unrelenting restrictions placed on the media in Jammu and Kashmir.

"The Editors Guild of India is gravely concerned that the Press Council of India, an institution created to safeguard press freedom, is not only failing to speak up for it but is perversely arguing for a media clampdown in the name of national interest. This, at a time when reporters on the ground are being targeted for doing their job," the statement said.

The Guild said it believes that it is a free media that offers a reliable feedback loop to those in charge of governance, that keeps the citizenry well informed so as to ensure responsive governments, and which acts as a safety valve for the expression of frustrations or criticism that can grow if attempts are made to suppress them.

A free media is, therefore, very much in the national interest, the Guild said.

The Guild urged the Press Council to objectively ascertain the trying circumstances in which the press is working in Jammu and Kashmir and lend its moral and institutional weight to help ease the restrictions that stand in the way of fair and accurate reporting.

The Press Council of India's move to intervene in the case in Supreme Court has prompted some members of the watchdog to raise strong objections and evoked a sharp response from media bodies.

A group of members have raised questions over the PCI's move, saying that they were not taken into confidence before or after the action by the media watchdog's chairman and retired Supreme Court Justice Prasad.

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