Journalism Under Siege

Journalism Under Siege

Bilal Ahmad Dar

Objective and unbiased journalism should be encouraged but in Kashmir it is considered as a crime. Journalists who report objectively are not spared in India either. The intrepid journalist Gauri Lankesh was assassinated on September 5, 2017, by three unidentified gunmen. On the other hand, yellow journalism and gonzo journalists have a very wide market in India. Arab Goswami is the best example of one such gonzo journalist. He dances to the tune of the ruling party. He is known for his rants. He is known for his hate speech against Muslims. But nothing has been done by the authorities to reprimand him for this. They would not raise their fingers against him because he is pushing their agenda. Where objective journalism is silenced and yellow journalism is given a free rope, there is certainly something wrong with the people who are at the helm of affairs.
Journalists in Kashmir have always been under the government panopticon. The recent booking of three Kashmiri journalists by the Cyber Police is more testimony to the well-known fact. Masarat Zahara, a photojournalist, has been booked been under UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) for which a person can be designated as a terrorist and jailed up to seven years. Gowhar Geelani was booked for his social media posts, which police claim were meant to disturb the law and order and to “glorify terrorism”. Peerzada Aashiq who works with The Hindu has been booked for a news item that was eventually proven inaccurate. The charges slapped on these journalists are meant to silence the voice of journalists in the valley. The government has suffocated every voice in Kashmir that rose against oppression and injustice.
Since the abrogation of Article 370, the authorities have used their heavy and oppressive hand against journalists to deter them from reporting the truth. There has been a lot of backlash against the authorities from media organisations. The Editors Guild of India has criticised the FIRs against the three Kashmiri journalists as an indirect way of intimidating journalists in the rest of the country as well, and has described the UAPA charges as “gross misuse of power”. Academics including Noam Chomsky and Ayesha Jalal wrote an open letter to seek the United Nations’ immediate intervention on the issue of continued persecution of Kashmiri journalists by the Indian government. They wrote, “The recent cases against Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Aashiq, and Gowhar Geelani follow a pattern of harassment and intimidation of journalists in Kashmir.”
In Kashmir, neither the people nor the journalists are allowed to dissent against the establishment. There is a difference between dissent and unlawful acts! There is a difference between journalism and crime! But in Kashmir the distinction has been ignored. One is deliberately confused for the other. Such is the condition of journalists and people in Kashmir that they dare not utter even a whimper of protest against oppression and injustice.

As Ghalib said:

Hum aah bhi kartay hain to ho jatay hain badnam
Wo qatl bji kartay hain to charcha nahi hota

The writer is a research scholar at Department of English, AMU

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