Journalism is not a crime
WHEN HASHTAG OUTRAGE IS BLIND TO GROUND REALITIES
by Bisma Nazir
The culture of hashtags and campaigns on social media related to one’s own perceptions over sensitive issues has vitiated the atmosphere. Often hashtags culminate in what can be termed as irresponsible outrage
A number of journalists in Kashmir and elsewhere have been booked by the law enforcing agencies for their alleged involvement in subversive activities. In response to government action, people are running hashtag campaigns on social media with catchy phrases which are supposed to be woke and ‘with it’. One such hashtag is ‘#journalism is not a crime’.
The hashtag is a rage among the self-proclaimed champions of freedom. It certainly has an appeal, and easily charmed those who are satisfied with black and white impressions of freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression – so on and so forth.
It is expected that this hashtag will get quick traction among netizens because freedom is dear to all across the globe. It is entirely in order that the law enforcing agencies must respect the free will of the citizens. There should be complete freedom to speak truth to the powers. Media is the watchdog for the nation. It has to be free.
But there is an American saying. Your freedom ends where my nose begins. You are free to undertake the acts of your choice, but not the cost of my freedom. Even the Supreme Court of India, in various historical orders, has observed that freedom of expression cannot be absolute. It comes with duties and responsibilities.
Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi has famously said, “There is no duty but creates a corresponding right, and those only are true rights which flow from a due performance of one’s duties.” Freedom of expression is a universal norm, and only responsible individuals enjoy the freedom. Can a person be given the complete freedom to throw garbage on roadside because he lives in a free society?
In Kashmir, photographs of Amarnath yatris who litter on roadside go viral every day. Should we allow them to defecate and litter in open because they are free people and they should be given this freedom? No. One is not free to litter or defecate in public. Similarly, one is not free to spread falsehood in the name of journalism and freedom of expression.
Hashtag champions with poor knowledge of the Kashmir conflict run the campaign ‘Journalism is not a crime’. This sounds woke and attractive from a distance without any knowledge of the complex dynamics of Kashmir.
One finds it strange that senior journalists in Delhi indulge in these campaigns. One expects them to be better informed. When they talk about freedom of expression, they don’t mean it. They have a definite agenda.
The Selective Highlighting Of ‘Heroes of Kashmir’
This reminds me of an incident in 2017. On my invitation and sponsorship, two senior women journalists from Delhi visited Kashmir. I had organized their interaction with students at Government Degree College, Shopian. The interaction went off very well.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who had been indifferent to my views on Kashmir, called the visiting journalist Ms Suhasini Hyder to appreciate and congratulate her for addressing a very volatile audience comprising of students and faculty of Degree College, Shopian. The other journalist whom I had invited, Ms Arfa Khanum Sherwani, when back in Delhi, posted a series of tweets with pics of her terror apologist journalist friend.
She described a certain set of people in Kashmir as “Heroes of Kashmir”. There was no mention whatsoever of her hosts in Kashmir including this scribe, who hold different views from those whom she praised. I called her and expressed my dissatisfaction over her conduct. She assured me that she will write about the event and highlight my courage to tell the people the inconvenient truth. She never did it. This speaks volumes about agenda-driven journalism, which is being referred to as freedom of expression. Journalists of this ilk run hashtag campaigns titled ‘Journalism is not a crime’.
In the context of Kashmir, one has to understand that the hostile enemy has made deep intrusions into the institutions of the state including the media. The narrative constructed in Kashmir about freedom of journalists is confined to the propagation the agenda of the adversaries of the state.
‘True Journalist’ Versus ‘Indian Agent’
So we have a bizarre situation in Kashmir. One who denounces the state is labeled as a true journalist and an individual of integrity. One who denounces terrorism is labeled as an ‘Indian Agent’. This discourse of ‘Indian agent’ is propagated by the same journalists who yearn for freedom of expression and run the hashtag campaign ‘Journalism is not a crime’.
Armchair intellectuals in Delhi endorse this campaign and jeopardize the lives of free-thinking people in Kashmir. Thirty years of violent turmoil, and still the champions of freedom of expression in Delhi have no idea about how they fuel the fire by endorsing agenda-driven journalism.
A recent terror mole arrested by the police had been associated with the BJP. Earlier too, such cases had surfaced were some individuals affiliated with political parties, especially the BJP, where arrested for their links with terrorists.
Kashmir is not as simple as people assume of, from a distance. The enemy agencies have moles everywhere. They have created strategic assets within Kashmir. Media is perhaps the one institution in Kashmir where the enemy has dominance. Still we insist on total freedom of expression here.
Armchair intellectuals in Delhi forget to talk about the killers of journalists like Shujahat Bukhari. They don’t name the killers even after the killers are identified – because the killers are Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and this doesn’t suit their agenda.
They forget that all those journalists killed in Kashmir over the last 30 years felt to the bullets of terrorists alone. The thumb rule of terrorism is that those who don’t fall in line should fall. If law-enforcement agencies crack moles in journalism, it is seen as “muzzling of voices” and “crushing dissent”. Indeed journalism is not a crime. Criminalism is.