Have Media Groups Of The Mainland Taken 360 degree View Of The Dynamics That Drive Journalism In Kashmir?

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    Editors Guild of India

Mumbai Press Club.                         Press Club Of India.                 Chandigarh Press Club

Editors Guild of India has express anguish at the way the “space for media freedom and active civil society has been steadily eroding in the region (Kashmir). On January 18, Editors Guild tweeted a press release signed by its president Seema Mustafa, general secretary Sanjay Kapoor and Treasurer Anant Nath. The release noted that journalists in Kashmir frequently face intimidation from terror groups as well as from the state. “They are also charged under heavy penal laws and are routinely detained by security forces for reporting or for their editorials.”

The release issued by the Editors Guild of India provided the following details.

“In April 2020, an FIR was filed against the journalist Peerzada Ashiq in connection with a report he had filed for The Hindu newspaper. Freelance photographer Masrat Zahra was charged with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). In October 2020, the Srinagar office of Kashmir Times was suddenly sealed. In March 2021, Fahad Shah, editor-in-chief of The Kashmirwalla, a Srinagar-based publication was detained for the third time for his writings. In April 2021, Kashmir Police issued an advisory forbidding journalists from reporting live encounters with militants on the specious plea that it is likely to incite violence or that it can promote anti-national sentiments. Most recently, journalist Sajid Gul was arrested for posting a video of a protesting family on social media. In a state ridden with such excesses against the media…”

The statement of Editors Guild was retweeted by Mumbai Press Club.

Press Club of India tweeted on Jan 20:

…for the sake of journalists in J&K who remain committed to the profession despite the difficulties they face and the sensitivities of the region they serve.

Chandigarh Press Club too registered its protest, saying “Stop Attack On The Freedom Of The Press.” The press release issued by Chandigarh Press Club stated: The Chandigarh Press Club also stands in solidarity with the members of the Kashmir Press Club and all those Kashmiri journalists who are surveilled, interrogated and jailed for just doing their professional duties. We stand with the media fraternity in upholding the freedom of the media and its right to perform its duty without restrictions or duress. When the media performs its role in a fair and unbiased manner, it takes a 360 degree view of everything. Editors Guild and the other journalist bodies cannot isolate themselves from the security situation faced by the nation.

Note the word chosen by Editors Guild of India regarding the advisory issued by Kashmir Police in April 2021, forbidding journalists from reporting live encounters with militants. Specious. The Cambridge Dictionary defines specious as “seeming to be right or true, but really wrong or false”. In a conflict region, Editors Guild of India dismisses the police request to journalists to refrain from reporting that is likely to incite violence or that which can provoke anti-national sentiments. If those manning Editor’s Guild think that such reporting does not happen, they need to delve into the patterns of journalism in Kashmir

Can any journalists’ body disassociate itself from the severe security threat faced by India in Kashmir?

Can any media group or any professional organization ignore the deep security concerns that the state faces in Kashmir? News reporting in Kashmir cannot be equated with any normal, peaceful area. The strategic implications of news-reporting in a conflict region cannot be ignored. Has this been fully appreciated by the media groups that have issued statements regarding news reporting in Kashmir? In their recent statements, these professional media bodies have decried that “journalists are surveilled, interrogated and jailed for just doing their professional duties.”

It Is Important To Understand This In Totality

Let this be understood clearly in black and white. Journalists in Kashmir have been “surveilled, interrogated and jailed” because they have not been doing “just doing their professional duties.” They have been questioned by the state because their writings totally erase the reality of terrorism in Kashmir. Their news-reporting seems to completely expunge the vicious role of Pakistan in Kashmir. For these journalists, Kashmir is a straight and simple two-factor equation. They see it as the so-called brutal Indian state pitted against the people of Kashmir. Can this be regarded as just and accurate journalism? Editors Guild of India calls itself premier, non-partisan association of editorial leaders in India. “Committed to free, fair and independent journalism. Not a watchdog, but a conscience keeper”, says its Twitter handle. I agree that other media organizations are equally bona fide institutions, and regard themselves similarly. They too are “committed to free, fair and independent journalism.” Before issuing statements regarding journalism and journalists in Kashmir, they must dwell upon this commitment, study the ground reality and appropriately respond to the truths that they find concealed here.

WHAT MEDIA GROUPS MUST REMEMBER VIS-A-VIS KASHMIR

Any statement on Kashmir from any civil society group or journalist group or other professional groups has its implications  We cannot issue statements on Kashmir on our free will precisely because Pakistan has its strategic assets in almost all spheres of life in Kashmir

We cannot treat Kashmir like any other state

This lofty positioning that “journalists are surveilled, interrogated and jailed for just doing their professional duties” sounds extremely good.

All those taking these lofty positions vis-à-vis some journalists in Kashmir – Can you certify that they are not involved in subversive activities? Can you certify that they are not working for the enemy nation?

Our youth continue to be used as cannon fodder for this manufactured conflict. The media groups issuing statements on Kashmir – have they studied the impact of writing that romanticizes militancy or gives it intellectual input? Have they analyzed what drives the journalists who propagate narratives pushed by Pakistan? Have they examined why do they do so?

As and when you issue any statement about any aspect of Kashmir, you should take it upon yourself to say – We stand guarantee that these individuals are not involved in incendiary writing.

Sitting far away from Kashmir, do you have who plays what role there?

Are you aware that you are issuing statements in favour of those who have some kind of understanding with the enemy agents?

Are you aware that by doing so, you are making the position of the state vulnerable?  Are you aware that by doing so, you are playing into the hands of the enemy?

Whenever you come out with any blanket statement favouring any journalists here, please state that we know this man or woman personally, and we stand by them.

Some Kashmiri Journalists Are Top Strategic Assets For Pakistan

Pakistan has penetrated deep into Kashmir society. Pakistan has strategic assets in Kashmir’s media, businesses and politics. In a conflict region, things cannot be taken at face value. Individuals often wear masks here. It is the bounden duty of the media and also the security agencies to look beyond the masks and search for the truth. Kashmir has its fair share of double-dealers, particularly in the media. It is an open secret in Kashmir that some so-called journalists here are the top strategic assets for Pakistan. They drive the anti-India narrative in the national and international media wherein jihadi terrorism in Kashmir is whitewashed. India – the victim of terror – is demonized. These journalists are part of Kashmir’s deep and strong terror ecosystem. Their reportage on Kashmir is the Pakistan-sponsored discourse.

The Gravy Train From Pakistan

For decades, Pakistan has lavishly paid journalists, activists and academicians to support the anti-India narrative locally and internationally. For a growing number of beneficiaries, the conflict has become a “family business”. The anti-India stance on Kashmir has been consistently bankrolled by Pakistan. Every so-called human rights ‘concern’ on Kashmir is connected with the Pakistan nexus. Media bodies who are concerned about Kashmir must question why no journalist in Kashmir brings to light the most tragic human rights violations of Kashmiris perpetrated by terrorists for decades. They must question why terrorism is glossed over in Kashmir. Media bodies in the mainland must question why terrorism in Kashmir is being packaged by these so-called journalists as “resistance in the face of occupation”. This packaging is then sold to top media houses worldwide because this “woke narrative” is in international demand. Why is this fake packaging flourishing? Because Pakistan pays for it. Pakistan has grabbed the information space with these yarns. Journos here are peddling these fabricated narratives. The media bodies need to ask why.

Why Are Those Who Stand With India Targeted, Killed?

Such deceitful, agenda-driven journalism is a deliberate and conscious attack on a nation’s sovereignty. There is a whole ecosystem supporting this charade in Kashmir. Academic careers are being built on it. Journalistic careers are flourishing on it. For decades, all Kashmiris who stand up for India have lived under the pall of terror. Militants have systematically marked them and killed them for supporting Kashmir’s total integration with India. Even today, we face the same situation. Kashmiris who identify with India and denounce Pakistan’s evil designs do so at great personal risk. They can be targeted and killed any time. Think Shujaat Bukhari. Think Babar Qadri. It is a strange situation in a sovereign nation where those who don’t subscribe to the views of the jihadis live daily under the fear of death, and those who ally with the enemy feel safe and secure. The Press Club incident has brought into centre stage this strange dichotomy in Kashmir. The greater degree of interest taken by media groups across the country into journalism in Kashmir shall bring to the fore the predicament of those who call a spade a spade. What was spoken about in hushed tones of fear shall now come sharply into the limelight.

It is an open secret in Kashmir that some so-called journalists here are the top strategic assets for Pakistan. They drive the anti-India narrative in the national and international media wherein jihadi terrorism in Kashmir is whitewashed. India – the victim of terror – is demonized. These journalists are part of Kashmir’s deep and strong terror ecosystem. Their reportage on Kashmir is the Pakistan-sponsored discourse.

The Kashmir Fight Blogs

The media groups who have responded to the Press Club developments must also examine the spine-chilling Kashmir Fight blogs. Even a casual read of the blogs reveals that it is written by an insider. For years now, these blogs have mercilessly marked those Kashmiris who speak up for the vibrant Indian democracy, and identify with India. Thereafter, these Kashmiris have been cold-bloodedly assassinated in broad daylight.

The persons driving the Kashmir Fight blogs may be living outside India. But the casual insider talk of these blogs reveals that the content is coming from within. These blogs impact not only those who are marked out for the kill. These blogs have a ripple effect on the entire Kashmir society. Such blogs silence other Kashmiris who want to speak up against terror. Such blogs silence independent thought and action. It is the mandate of J&K Police and the security agencies to protect the citizens. A report published on news portal The Wire on September 22 equated state investigation into those suspected to be associated with the Kashmir Fight blog as an attack on freedom of the press.

National security and internal security. Freedom of the press. These are separate areas. They cannot be merged or equated. Why is state investigation and action against those journalists wrong who deepen and strengthen the terror network labeled as intimidation or harassment? What kind of twisted logic is this that a man wielding a pen can write what he wants to, and he must be regarded as sacrosanct, above and beyond the law of the land?

Who Has Truly Choked The Voices of Journalists In Kashmir?

It is time for the media groups of the country to frame the question that has not been asked in Kashmir for decades. Who has choked the voices of the media in Kashmir?

Any objective study by the media groups in India or abroad shall establish that it is not the state that has muzzled the voice of the media in Kashmir. The cruel, merciless gun of the terror forces has muzzled honest journalism in Kashmir.

We are living in a region where men and women have been routinely killed for standing up against jihadi terror. The gun wielded by Pakistan-sponsored forces has normalized the killing of those who don’t support jihad. The fear of death chokes voices. The fear of death chokes truth. The same has been the fate of Kashmir. For decades, Kashmir has been ruled by the dark forces of terror. Radicalization and indoctrination of successive generations has been the ongoing project funded by Pakistan.

How do the media groups across the country define a journalist? What are the criteria stipulated by them for a journalist?

Adil Farooq – the man who hurled a grenade at the busy Hari Singh High Street in Srinagar and was caught with two more live grenades. Can he be called a journalist because he also worked for a media house? Adil’s duplicity got exposed because of his extreme action.

The so-called journalists who peddle Pakistan propaganda in Kashmir do not get exposed because their actions are quiet and far more insidious. How does one come across the reports of the alleged high-handedness of the Administration against the journalists? Obviously, one reads about this content from the reports filed by this same breed of journalists working for national and international media. So where and how are their voices choked? How do you establish that these journalists are being harassed and intimidated by the state?

It shall be a fortunate development if media bodies in the mainland look into the hypocrisy that defines most of media work in Kashmir. They must bring before the nation how jihadis have consistently threatened, intimidated, killed and maimed journalists for honestly doing their job.

The media bodies who are concerned with journalism in Kashmir must come out with details of all those journalists and activists killed by terrorists at the behest of those colleagues who are part of the terror ecosystem in Kashmir.  Are these media bodies across India aware of the chilling hit lists of journalists released by terror organizations over social media on a regular basis? These hit lists carry names of journalists who must be targeted and killed. The inputs for these lists are provided by local self-proclaimed journalists. The militants threaten. The journalist or activist is killed. This has been the pattern over the last few years.

Regarding the commotion directed against the Indian state post-August 5, 2019, the international media represented by local faces in Kashmir and the so-called Leftists and liberals in New Delhi have filed baseless, concocted reports unsubstantiated by evidence. Evidently, they consider that mud-slinging against the Indian state constitutes evidence in itself. We have no intention to defend the actions of the Administration in any way. The Administration has its own lacunae and flaws. It is a global phenomenon that the state administration everywhere has its share of black sheep. The moot point is this: We are confronted with serious questions that have not been addressed for far too long. We hope that the interest taken by the media groups in journalism in Kashmir may serve as the moment to unravel these ugly truths and expose this darkness in Kashmir journalism. We are hopeful that media bodies like Editors Guild and others shall make a panoramic, comprehensive assessment of media functioning in Kashmir. We earnestly hope that these media groups are not held hostage by the people who are being paid by the enemies of the state to demean and demonise India.

 

DISCLAIMER  

The purpose of this write-up is not to insinuate or claim that the journalists against whom the police action was initiated should be regarded as guilty. The purpose of the write-up is to state that Kashmir is a conflict region. India is fighting a war on terror. J&K Police, the Army and the para-military forces and security are dealing with a malevolent enemy across the border. Pakistan routinely uses everything at its disposal to bleed India. In this context, actions taken by the state and its arms, and the investigation or enquiry into suspicious activity cannot be viewed in simplistic terms of so-called attacks on freedom of the press.

LOOK WHO’S CLAIMING VICTIMHOOD!

Duplicity Flourishing In The Name Of Journalism

If so-called journalists living in Kashmir are peddling fake narratives which challenge India’s sovereignty, then they cannot be regarded as journalists simply because they are writing for a media house. By aligning with the enemy nation, they are violating the trust of the society and the nation. Investigation into their activities cannot be labeled as violation of the freedom of the press. We are certain that the honourable Press Council of India will not place the freedom of the press above the law of the land. India is facing a proxy war unleashed by Pakistan in Kashmir. India is fighting an onslaught of terror on its land by jihadi groups supported by Pakistan. The sole aim of these jihadi groups is to destabilize and break India. These jihadi groups work under the façade of religion to justify their evil machinations. They are using the instrument of religion to serve Pakistan’s political designs. This duplicity cannot be allowed to flourish in the name of journalism.  Perception management is key to success in a conflict region, where external forces are constantly seeking greater space to deepen their agenda. Pakistan uses so-called journalists, activists and academicians to malign India. It routinely keeps journalists on its payrolls worldwide to peddle its anti-India narrative.

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