Srinagar: The Press Council of India (PCI) on Monday conceded that Kashmiri journalists did not trust the media monitoring body. At the release ceremony of the report, ‘Role of Media and Media Scenario in J&K’, made by a PCI team led by its chairman Justice CK Prasad, the PCI members said that the media industry has witnessed growth in Kashmir despite the turbulent 1990s when other industries shrank due to the conflict.
The 16-page report on Kashmir media was prepared by a PCI sub-committee formed after the visit of three interlocutors to J&K following the 2010 public uprising.
“(Kashmiri journalists) must write to PCI. They must trust us to see the results,” said Justice Prasad responding to a question regarding the arrest of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf by the National Investigation Agency.
“It is unfortunate that Kashmiri journalists do not write to PCI,” he observed. “Don’t leave us (the PCI) to our own sources of information. There is no direct communication between PCI and you,” he told the Kashmir journalists who attended the press conference at Media Communications Hall at DIPR Complex here.
“We will not let you (Kashmiri journalists) down,” he asserted. “Communicate with us and see the results.”
Claiming that the PCI was not aware of the fact that a report submitted to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs some time ago called for “control” on Kashmiri media to “contain Kashmir situation”, the PCI team said, “(if) taking media in confidence serves the country, it is no wrong. But if someone wants a journalist to write according to his/her choice, it is problematic.”
The PCI chairman, whose three-year term ended today, said in response to a question on newspaper content, “So far as the content, including photographs, of a newspaper does not violate the code of conduct of journalism, it is not wrong.
“We (the PCI members) are here to preserve the freedom of the press,” he said. “We do not regulate the press, but if you violate any journalistic norm, then it is the end.”
Briefly divulging the subject of PCI sub-committee discussions with state and intelligence agencies working in J&K, the PCI team said that the agencies had alleged that newspapers were being funded by some foreign agencies. “But there was no evidence,” Justice Prasad said.
On regional media outlets, the team said that Jammu-based newspaper owners and editors alleged that their Kashmiri counterparts were ‘anti-nationals’. “But Kashmiri media personnel said that Jammu (media) has always benefited while Ladakhis complained of complete negligence… they are not even being paid advertisements.
“There is a pull (between Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh media) in different directions,” the team observed.
The PCI team said that they were aware that the Kashmiri media industry was “suffering”. “You are suffering due to other media… due to so-called national media,” the PCI members said.
“Whatever the so-called national media reports (about Kashmir) affects the local journalists working in Kashmir,” they said, adding that they had heard “serious grievances” from TV journalists regarding “para-trooper journalists”.
“We were told about journalists being flown in from other parts (of India) to report from Kashmir about which they do not know the ground realities,” the PCI chairman said.
The chairman informed the gathering that a total of 271 newspapers operated from the Jammu division of the state while a total of 196 newspapers are working in Kashmir, apart from two newspapers that are run from the Ladakh division.
The PCI team said that they had received various complaints from the Kashmir-based newspaper owners that they were being denied government advertisements “just for refusing to toe the government line”.
“While government agencies alleged that newspapers were running a vilification campaign against them… stories were untrue… the armed forces told us that the newspapers wrote against them,” they said.