Srinagar: Since the eruption of armed conflict in 1990, 21 journalists have lost their lives in targeted killings or because of being caught in the cross-fire in Kashmir, a report by the International Federation of Journalists South Asia, has said.
Highlighting the grim picture of journalism in the conflict-torn valley, the report cites the examples of the state-sponsored violence on the media men along with the challenges of living and reporting in a conflict zone.
“The media in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has walked the razor’s edge for the past 30 years, facing pressures from all sides of the conflict. Journalists have had to survive by treading a tricky middle path, carrying out balanced reporting in a conflict situation in which they and their families live. The media has suffered in the form of killings, direct attacks, intimidation, threats and pressures from various quarters. Twenty-one journalists have been killed due to the conflict – either directly targeted or caught in the cross-fire,” the report said.
The report said that media in Kashmir held its own despite pressures from the government, military and the militants. However, it has accused the government of indifferent attitude towards the local media organisations. The report cites the recent example of crackdown on the newspapers and cable TV channels.
“Regular visits by army personnel and intelligence officers to the homes of journalists and harassment of their families has become routine enough to be unremarkable – the annoyance and surveillance being borne as a fallout of working and living in a conflict zone,” the report said.
“Journalists being picked up and taken to Military Intelligence (MI) camps and interrogated, sometimes being detained with no charges. Questions about their stories sometimes leads to self-censorship to minimise harassment to families who live in fear. The lack of support from employers seems to increase vulnerability. The recent arrest of photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, 20, picked up on September 5, 2017, by the National Investigation Authority (NIA) is a case in point. He is reportedly languishing in Tihar Jail in Delhi, with no charges framed against him,” it added.
The report also observes that how journalists risk their lives in getting the facts and how the government tactically denies access to the information. It said that denial of physical access to the areas and refusal of officials to speak on the issues or incidents have made news gathering and verification-a challenge in Kashmir.
“The official version is often too late in coming, making it impossible to include quotes of relevant government and military sources within the schedule demanded by a daily news cycle. This routine stone-walling means that the official version is missing from news stories,” the report said.
“While there is no direct censorship, circumstances are created to make it difficult to work. There is no system in place to talk to the responsible person in the police or security agencies to get the official version,” the report quotes a senior journalist based in Kashmir.
“Another way in which the army controls the flow of information and testimonies from affected populations is to intimidate villagers to the extent that common people are afraid to talk to journalists due to fear of repercussions,” says the report.
The report has also highlights the role of the military and embedded journalism in Kashmir and states the example of New Delhi based media outlets in covering the 2014 floods.
“The majority of the media outlets from New Delhi were operating from the military airbase in Srinagar. They were embedded and did not shy away from openly running a public relations operation for the military. It seems they were reporting for the military, and not for the flood victims,” the report says.
The report says that the discrimination against local journalists is open. The report quotes an incident from a local reporter when the military had restricted movement and residents were not allowed to come out of their houses, even if they were journalists. Yet, the well-known Delhi-based journalist did her piece-to-camera- from a military vehicle right outside his house.