New York Times’ Emily Schmall spearheaded campaign at FCC against “The Kashmir Files” maker Vivek Agnihotri

Others who joined her included Sebastien, Tawqueer Hussain, Md. Aminul & others

Delhi Crown Bureau

New Delhi, May 4 (Delhi Crown): The foreign journalists’ club in the Indian capital is mired in a major controversy, ever since it’s current Governing Committee cancelled an already booked press conference by a film-maker whose film “The Kashmir Files” has been running a hit at the box office.

The film revolves around the genocide of the Hindus in early 1990s, leading to their exodus from the Kashmir Valley. The film has been much acclaimed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, with many state governments declaring it tax-free.

Those privy to the “developments” at the Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia (FCC of South Asia), located just opposite to the Supreme Court of India, confide that New York Times’ correspondent in India Emily Schmall was the first one to raise strong objection(s) to film-maker Vivek Agnihotri, of The Kashmir Files fame, holding a press conference at the Club.

Sources at the FCC told “The Delhi Crown” that Emily Schmall of the New York Times, who is also the Vice-President of FCC of South Asia, actually spearheaded the campaign against Agnihotri in the FCC’s WhatsApp groups, and even threatened to resign both from the Governing Committee and the Club as well, if Agnihotri was allowed to hold his press conference at the Club.

She was soon joined by other foreign journalists, who are also office-bearers in the Club’s Governing Committee, including Secretary Sebastien Farcis (Radio France International), Treasurer Ragvendra Verma (ZDF, Second German TV), Mohammad Aminul Islam (Bangladesh Sangbad newspaper), Tawqeer Hussain (The Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper), Kumkum Chadha (The Independent, a Bangladeshi newspaper), and Sanjeev Miglani (Reuters).

Journalists in Indian media have already begun dubbing these foreign journalists as “anti-India”. Others have condemned the cancellation of the press conference as an attempt to “throttle” the freedom of press in India.

It is learnt that Club’s president Munish Gupta initially (sometime in mid-April) took the “unilateral” decision to allow Agnihotri to hold a press conference at the Club. And, he shared his decision with the rest of the Governing Committee members many days later.

“Munish Gupta portrays himself as a staunch supporter of the RSS and the BJP, claiming his father and K.N. Gupta was an old RSS-BJP follower. I am not sure about his journalistic credentials, but haven’t ever heard about him been engaged with any media organisation,” said an FCC member on the condition of anonymity.

She further stated that as soon as the rest of the Governing Committee members came to know about Gupta’s decision, Emily Schmall raised her strong objection in a WhatsApp Group run by Munish Gupta.

“Soon, hell broke loose in the WhatsApp Group, with other office-bearers too asking how could Munish Gupta take such a decision unilaterally, allowing a film-maker to address a press conference from the Club’s platform,” stated the female journalist, who is an active member of the FCC of South Asia.

She further added – “Emily Schmall of the New York Times even threatened to quit from the post of Vice-President and also Club’s membership if her wish didn’t prevail. With an American journalist taking such a line, others too followed her stance and demanded the press conference be cancelled, else they would all quit en masse.”

Ever since Munish Gupta took over the reins of the FCC of South Asia, he has had the habit of taking unilateral decisions in terms of running the Club. And, all other office-bearers used to blindly follow him. Gupta was under the impression that this too would pass as in the normal course. But that wouldn’t be.

Bowing down before the pressure mounted by the foreign journalists and Club’s office-bearers, Munish Gupta decided to call off the event in a huff. Barely 2-3 days prior to the event, he called Vivek Agnihotri and conveyed the “decision” about the cancellation of the event.

A fuming Agnihotri, an alumnus of the Delhi-based Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), took to twitter and posted a video condemning the FCC Governing Committee’s decision. And, the controversy had just begun.

Reacting to the controversy, Prakash Nanda, a senior journalist and an FCC member, tweeted – “FCC has cancelled an event featuring The Kashmir Files – maker Vivek Agnihotri. Under whose pressure has it been done? It is unlikely that a government favourably disposed towards the movie has done it. Is it then the pressure of anti-India foreign press and the brown coolies?”

Pankaj Yadav, who won as Member Executive in the current Governing Committee of FCC of South Asia, took to twitter giving the “Insider’s View” which was retweeted by Vivek Agnihotri saying – “Thread of TRUTH”. And, an unending saga of attacks from Twitterati on the Governing Committee FCC of South Asia unleashed.

Meanwhile, a few rightist organisations in Delhi are said to be planning to carry out protests outside the FCC of South Asia on Friday (May 5), when Vivek Agnihotri would be addressing his press conference at a five-star hotel in the heart of Indian capital.

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