Recently a senior police officer in Srinagar asked me a pointed question. “Do the residents of Srinagar have no grievances they want to share with the police? They don’t visit police stations or other interactive platforms for engaging with police officers at diverse levels. In other parts of Kashmir valley, offices of district police officers flooded with visitors seeking redressal of their grievances and complaints. My response was that there is no Press Colony in the other major cities and towns of Kashmir. It is in Srinagar alone. It is the easily accessible space where one can highlight whatever one wants, attract attention, go viral on social media – prompting authorities to act. I further argued that over the last many years, the growth of social media and Facebook journalists is unprecedented in Srinagar. The Press Colony is flooded with Facebook journalists. The only thing they need is a mike with a logo, available in the nearby Aabi Guzar market.
Srinagar has developed an intriguing culture over the years. If a woman has a problem with her husband, she opts for a sit-in dharna at the Press Colony. Scores of mikes or mobile phones immediately appear before her. In no time, her complaints are uploaded on social media. The video goes viral. The local media have created their own YouTube channels. The video is widely uploaded and shared.
This novel method of highlighting the grievances has benefitted all. The individuals who choose to sit on dharna or protest get their five-minute glory courtesy the Facebook journalists acting as Judge and Jury. Those who have some hidden agenda capitalize on the videos. They twist the videos and give it colour as they please, pushing their narratives of choice. Journalism seems to have become a mass activity in Srinagar. Fake journos flock to Press Colony. This has security implications for the media persons operating there.
Shujaat Bukhari was targeted in Press Colony. There have been repeated attempts in the past to attack media persons working there. There are militant associates who have infiltrated into the media ranks. For the safety and security of the media persons operating in Press Colony, the Administration must ensure that this isn’t a Free For All Zone.