The Editors Guild of India condemns the despicable manner in which a barely veiled threat of violence has been issued against journalists by Mr. Lal Singh, an MLA belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party and a former minister in the Jammu and Kashmir government. Far from condemning the recent assassination of the senior journalist, Shujaat Bhukhari, Mr. Singh in a media briefing warned all journalists in Jammu and Kashmir to “draw a line” unless they wished to be targeted like the slain editor of Rising Kashmir. Such a warning not only betrays Mr. Singh’s deep disregard for the role of the Free Press in a democracy, it also amounts to encouraging physical attacks against journalists in the sensitive state and elsewhere in the country.

The Guild demands that the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir should take note of this incitement to violence against journalists and take necessary action against Mr. Singh. The Guild also demands that the BJP should reprimand Mr. Singh, take suitable disciplinary action and ask him to retract the offending statement after offering an apology.

The Guild’s attention has also been drawn to the recent instances of how several television channels in Tamil Nadu have been arbitrarily taken off the air for periods ranging between a couple of hours and a few days.

The Guild is appalled that an FIR has been registered by the Tamil Nadu police against a reporter and the management of Puthiya Thalaimurai, a Tamil news channel. A case has been slapped under Section 153 A of the IPC (promoting enmity between groups) and other sections of the law on completely unjustifiable grounds. All that the news channel did was to host a roundtable discussion on the protests in Tamil Nadu in which an invited panel aired its views before an audience. The FIR was slapped even before the programme was aired. In the absence of a convincing explanation, this seems a shocking attempt to muzzle dissenting views and intimidate the media.

Other affected television channels have also complained that such blackouts happen after they telecast programmes that were not liked by the Tamil Nadu government, which controls the television channel content distribution agency, Arasu Cable.

While the Tamil Nadu government has assured the media that it has no plans to black out television channels, the dangers to a free and unhindered distribution of television content will continue to lurk as long as the state government controls a channel distribution company accounting for a market share of over 60 percent. This also has the dangerous potential of undermining the functioning of a free media.

The Guild urges the Tamil Nadu government to adhere to the recommendations of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India that bar a government from owning a television channel distribution company. It also urges the government to take necessary steps to ensure that proper regulation is enforced to ensure no unfair or uncompetitive steps are taken by television channel distribution companies.