By Irshad Aziz
Journalism plays a key role in every society. It is one of the basic pillars of society. A strong and vibrant society is identified by its strong and unbiased journalism. Serious and sober journalists work hard and take life risks to cover true stories and uncover falsehood.. Kashmir is one of the world’s largest militarized zones; hence Kashmiri journalists are always at great risk. Salutes to our young and blooming journalists for covering real episodes in worst conditions despite threats to their lives. They work day and night to highlight the miseries of Kashmiri people. They are the ones who revealed the mass graves in Kashmir. They are the ones who revealed the brutalities, Kashmiri people are facing from decades. They are good when they report world’s largest mass rape from Kunan-Poshpora and earn the enemies wrath. They are good when they report the world’s largest mass blinding in Kashmir. They are good when they reveal various scandals and scams as part of their duty to serve the public. But when they try to go against any institution to know the facts about the miseries of people, the institution imposes a ban. Does that make a sense?
The recent ban imposed by the principal GMC Srinagar to not to allow journalists in hospitals is in no way a wise step. Pertinently this ban comes just after few days, a female journalist of Kashmir working with Greater Kashmir, bagged the prestigious International Centre for Journalists (ICJF) Global Health Reporting Award 2017 at New York, USA. It was a moment of joy for the whole of Kashmir. But this moment could not lost for long, as after few days, one of the doctor at SMHS hospital misbehaved with female health reporter of Kashmir Monitor. This is not the first such case. Few months ago(Feb. 2017), one of the senior doctors at SKIMS Medical College, Bemina misbehaved with a female journalist working with Rising Kashmir.
I am not against the respected doctors of the valley, they are working hard day and night to treat the bullet and pellet injured victims among other forms of care and treatment to the public. On one hand , they are continuously working to save the life of a person and on other hand, they are hindering the work of other section of society (journalists). If journalists are interfering in the work of doctors, then they should be held accountable. But, why should doctors not be held accountable if they interfere in the work of journalists? The fact here is that the work of journalists is dependent on the work of all sections of the society. It is not wise to suggest the journalists to visit hospitals in fixed time intervals. Does that mean that a school principal will also issue an order for the journalists to visit during lunch break only? What if all the officials from the agriculture, horticulture, education, Power Development Department, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution and so on. will issue the same orders and allow journalists only in fixed time intervals!
How will the scams and scandals get exposed then? Does it mean that during that fixed time interval, the concerned institute or official will remain well prepared to hide the scam?? What does SMHS administration want to gain by this ban? To hide the records of bullet and pellet victims? To hide the problems faced by the patients? To hide the inefficiencies of its staff? Or to serve the society in a more convenient way? If they really want to serve the people, then they should immediately lift the ban and allow journalists to carry their duties during working hours.
Why only the SMHS feels hindrance by allowing the journalists during working hours is an intriguing question. The statement of Director SKIMS in this regard is encouraging and mature, who stated that, “He welcomes journalists with open hands for critical reporting round the clock”. Does SMHS really want to hide the brutalities perpetuated on the people of Kashmir?
The silence of Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK) in this regard raises many eyebrows too. When DAK can issue statements regarding politics and other unrelated issues, how can they escape from this most related scene?
This comes at a time when Kashmiri journalists are facing the worst of situations, may it be the summoning of Kamran Yusuf by NIA or the aggression by Indian TV channels. On one side they stand firm like a solid rock against biased Indian electronic media and bring into limelight the real situation of Kashmir, on other side, they work hard to expose the attacks on doctors during unrests in the valley. This is the time when all sections of the society should come forward to appreciate the work of local media. This is the time when we shall respect and encourage our journalists for their commendable work. If we divorce our media at this critical juncture, we will be left to bite the dust by Indian media. It should be not like that when they report in our favour, we are their friends and if they report against us, we are their foes. If the same condition continues then the time is not far when our journalists will be foes of all and friends of none. It is time to befriend them for their real and factual work.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org