Middlemen allegedly take kickbacks, get little-known newspapers huge advertising; Information Department mum on RTI query
Srinagar: Not all newspapers in Kashmir are facing a tough time. It is a fact not well known, and the government’s Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) wants to keep it that way, denying information to queries filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
If it has nothing to hide, then the DIPR should come clean on accusations that it is hand-in-glove with middlemen who take kickbacks from some lesser-known newspapers and get them a lion’s share of the government advertisements.
Newspaper owners that Kashmir Reader talked to lamented that newspapers with a negligible daily circulation are being allocated way more advertisements than others that are widely read and widely circulated.
“Newspapers selling thousands of copies every day are given a minuscule share of the government advertisements, while at the same time others whose names we get to hear for the first time enjoy privileges and huge benefits from constant, abundant advertisements,” the Managing Director of an English daily published from Srinagar told Kashmir Reader.
One of these alleged middlemen, who goes by the name of Ghulam Mohammad Mir, is said to take money from newspaper owners and then fetches them a fair share of advertisements allocated by the DIPR.
Kashmir Reader called Mir, to know his side of the story, but he did not talk and promised to call back. He neither called back nor answer any further calls from this reporter. Nor did he respond to the text message sent to his Whatsapp number.
The said person is highly influential and can be seen pictured with the who’s who of the UT administration quite often.
“These people are connected to the power corridors. How else do you think they will manage to pull such tasks with such ease? The nexus is evident,” an editor of another English daily told Kashmir Reader.
Concerned, and also affected by the current scenario, Kashmir Reader filed an RTI application to get to the bottom of this nexus, in July last year. The query sought information on newspaper-wise advertisement allocation and criteria adopted for the allocation, among other things.
The RTI was filed to the office of the Public Relations Officer of the DIPR. In reply to the RTI, the office stated that the requisite information was in the domain of Joint Director Information and referred the case to his office.
But the reply to the queries from the office of the Joint Director was not satisfactory.
“It is evident that they are hiding something and the guidelines are not being followed in the allocation of advertisements. There should be transparency and accountability, or it is evident that incompetent people, with vested interests and running shady newspapers, will keep benefiting through these middlemen,” said a Chief Editor of a newspaper.
Repeated attempts to contact Director Information and Public Relations, Akshay Labroo, were unsuccessful. He did not answer his phone.