Srinagar: After failing to impose an official gag on the local media in Kashmir, the state government has ensured that Prasar Bharati Broadcasting Corporation of India (PBBCI) blacks out the situation in Kashmir.
Sources said that the Chief Minister’s Office summoned chiefs of the two regional news units of Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan to the civil secretariat last week where they were asked to turn a Nelson’s eye to events in Kashmir.
Radio Kashmir’s regional news head Mushtaq Tantry said that Naveen Choudhary, principal secretary to the chief minister, called him and Doordarshan’s regional news head Salman Qazi to his office last week. “We were reminded that as state-owned media, our role should be to help the government. Our coverage should be different from private media,” Tantry told Kashmir Reader.
Salman Qazi termed the meeting as “private” and refused to divulge details.
Shortly after this official gag ordered last week, the news units of both Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan stopped relaying the actual situation of the anti-India uprising in Kashmir. People who watch or hear the news bulletins of Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan said that the change has been quite evident in the past few days.
“Earlier, the official media was covering the local events and giving factual position on the death toll and the injuries. But now they are back to false propaganda and the hiding of facts,” said Bashir Ahmad Khan, a keen news watcher from north Kashmir.
Sources said that New Delhi dispatched a senior officer, Additional Director General of Doordarshan News RN Mishra to Srinagar to oversee the news bulletins. Mishra, who joined last week, took over the control of the Doordarshan news unit in Srinagar. He is now dictating the tone and tenor of the news items, their placement and visuals. A news correspondent, too, has been dispatched from the Doordarshan head office to feed the Delhi newsroom from Srinagar.
Qazi refused to comment on Mishra’s assignment but said correspondents have always been coming here.
This sending of journalists from Delhi has put the local newscasters at risk. A Doordarshan newsreader who wished not to be named said, “Earlier people appreciated our efforts to project the actual happenings in Kashmir but now we are being cursed for the biased coverage of events,” he said.
News bulletins are now filled with official versions, police and army spokespersons’ statements, and activities of the state machinery. “After listening to the official news bulletins it seems everything is smooth in Kashmir. They do not even mention the deaths of civilians who succumbed to injuries in hospitals,” Bashir Ahmed Khan said.
In the local Radio and AIR Delhi news bulletins, the unrest in Kashmir figures nowhere. “We are simply contractual workers who have no say in choosing the news content. We are simply tools to execute the bulletins, including reading from the teleprompter,” said a couple of newsreaders working with Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan.
They added that they face problems in their localities because of the news blackout. They fear public anger especially after the pro-freedom leadership’s call to boycott three Indian news channels.
“Being public service broadcasters, both radio and Doordarshan have moral and constitutional obligation to report the events with accuracy and professionally. Only that can assuage the seething public anger against public service broadcasters,” said a radio listener from north Kashmir’s Bandipora.