Journalism is an important tool by virtue of which even the layman gets aware of the daily happenings. The responsibility of assessing, thorough investigation, and presenting the news, national or international, of trends and issues is parallel to no profession whatsoever. Impartial and honest journalists make this profession all the more invaluable. Journalism is an irrevocable part of a democratic society.
Journalism in most parts of the world is independent, as it should be, given the prerogative it holds over other professions. As quoted by Henry Anatole Grunwald: Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. Virtue in the sense that it presents truth to the masses, and restrains a government from going against the rights of individuals. And fault in the sense that it has never been without the interference of the overreaching state. It has always remained a target for the state, to curb it to present their own versions, and rigmarole of lies. Nonetheless, journalism operates smoothly and swiftly in almost every nook and cranny of the world.
But in Kashmir the scenario is altogether different: threats, intimidation, thrashing are a common sight in this part of the world. If sources are to be believed more than a hundred journalists have been beaten to pulp by the security forces. The plight of these journalists is no less than a common Kashmiri, both are beaten with impunity by the state sponsored men-in-uniform. The only difference is: while the former gets a media coverage which again leads to nothing, and the latter is even deprived of the same.
Encounters have now became a common sight, be it south or north, both are equally involved. To cover such encounters and the protests, that go hand in hand with encounters, journalists put their lives at stake. Working from the ground, journalists leave no stone unturned in presenting the news as it happens. But to protect this ‘glorification of militants’, journalists become a soft target. As in the recent encounter, which broke at Handwara and culminated with the killing of scholar-turned-militant, Dr Mannan Wani, no media persons were allowed to cover the incident. When asked the reason, the same old rhetoric: this leads to the aggrandizing of militants.
Another similar incident came from Fateh Kadal, Srinagar, in which not only media fraternity was kept out of the scene, but was also thrashed in broad daylight. And what happened after that is known to all. No action was taken, no one held guilty; in fact nothing budged: No condemnation came from governor of the state, let alone action.
A senior journalist, political activist, and an editor of a local daily was assassinated in a busy street, albeit police claimed to have arrested one of the counterparts, but what happened to others? How and why was he assassinated? What was the motive of the killers? Who are these unknown gunmen that roam so freely that it took them only five minutes to kill and go? These questions have time and again lingered and disappeared into the mist – mist which rises and takes everything with it so quickly whenever such incidents happen.
These are but only few incidents that gained the limelight and quickly dimmed with the passage of time. These, and other such incidents have raised a serious question on the security of press in Kashmir. And what’s annoyingly surprising is the silence of those hunter masters, who on petty issues raise their voices so loud, but remain muted on such occasions. A sneak peek into this issue makes a rational mind think why this hypocrisy, why such discrepancy, why this and why that. Perhaps the answer lies within the system that governs the state!
In the light of these happenings, things have come to such a pass that parents not only disallow their wards but also condemn them to take up journalism as a profession. Perhaps they are right in doing so, given the every day intimidation and thrashing of journalists.
What is to be done? What are the measures to safeguard the rights of press? How this profession can be saved from being abandoned? Perhaps in raising the question I have, in part, suggested an answer to the one I’ve repeatedly asked.
(Farhan Bashir is currently pursuing 10 plus 2 from Aligarh Muslim University. Feedback at Farhanbashir594@gmail.com)
NOTE: The Views expressed by the author are his own and are not the views of The Kashmiriyat necessarily.