Information Morass

Information Morass
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The Information Department of Jammu and Kashmir is in deep morass. While there appears to be a nexus between obscure or “litho” newspapers, so to speak, is almost common knowledge, there also appears to be patronage of “blue eyed boys” of journalism in Kashmir. All this came to more prominent light after an RTI was filed against the said department and the Editors Guild demanded transparency in the workings of the department. The consequence has been the removal of the minister from the Information Department and its taking over by Mehbooba Mufti. While it is difficult to pin down the nature of wheelings and dealings within and inside the department, from an outside perspective, it also appears that some newspapers in Kashmir are being favored and patronized clearly and obviously by powers that be within the Information Department and perhaps also from without. The reason(s) for this patronage, besides the nexus , appears to lie in skewing the media landscape and ecology in favor of the chosen few. It might be stated here that the cost and revenue structure of newspapers in Kashmir is dependent upon administration’s advertisements. This is more poignant in the absence of a robust private sector in Kashmir. The administration(s) do not do a favor by advertizing in news papers; they are duty bound be a legal framework here. This is the theory but, in practice, some unscrupulous officials perhaps with or without political patronage disburse favors to even newspapers whose circulation , is negligible or in certain cases, very sparse. This “ wink wink, nod nod” relationship and nexus needs to be broken and advertisements given to newspapers on sheer merit. There is also the factor of choking some newspapers whose narrative is unpalatable to powers that be. This development or factor , appears to be in consonance with distorting the mediascape(s) of Kashmir in a manner that promotes the “ blue eyed boys”. In the final analysis, distorting the narrative(s) through supply side choking and contortions thereof can only be unhealthy. A clean, unbiased and real narrative, especially, in a conflict zone like Kashmir , is the sine qua non of healthy and robust journalism. Media freedom, equality and a level playing field should inform the grist and mill of policy towards media , both generally speaking and in terms of Kashmir. Distortions , contortions in narrative, whatever the premise, can only lead to insalubrious conditions and contexts. It is this fact that powers that be must understand.

 

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