We’re losing our freedom of speech. We are losing freedom of religion. We are losing freedom of the press. Roger Ailes

Objective and unbiased journalism should be encouraged but in Kashmir it is considered as a crime.  A true and professional journalist is said to be the mouthpiece of people. But the irony of the fact is that this mouthpiece along with people is restricted and suppressed everywhere in Kashmir.

Journalists who report about the things objectively are not spared in India. Gauri Lankesh is one such example. Lankesh, as we know, was an Indian journalist cum social activist. She was assassinated on 5th September 2017 by the three unidentified gunmen. The reason for her assassination is nothing but her objective analysis of the things, her pointblank attitude, and her realistic criticism of the motion. On 23 Jan 2008, Lankesh wrote an article titled “Darodegilada BJP galu” in her newspaper. The said article directly criticized BJP leaders like Pralhad Joshi, Umesh Dushi, and Venkatesh Dushi who had cheated a jeweler for Rs 100,000. These leaders threatened Lankesh for the disclosure of their fraud. The threat later turned into her assassination. Such is the fate of objective and straightforward journalism in India.

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 is 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 watering their agenda through his gonzo journalistic attitude.  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 the three Kashmiri journalists by the Cyber Police remains testimony to the fact. All the three journos have been booked under (UPAPA) Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. It is a draconian anti-terrorism law, under which a person can be designated as a terrorist and jailed upto seven years. Masarat Zahara, a photojournalist has been booked for a Karbala photograph which was deliberately mistaken for the funeral photograph of a militant. Likewise, Gowhar Geelani was booked for his social media post, which police claims was 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 booking of all the three journos is meant to silence the voice of journalists in the valley. The government hooliganism in the valley has silenced and suffocated every voice that rose against the oppression and injustice.

Since the abrogation of Article 370, the authorities have used their heavy and oppressive hand against the journalists in order to deter them from reporting the true events and happenings. There has been a lot of backlash against the authorities on the part of journo fraternity. Editors Guild of India has criticized the FIRs against these journos. The Guild has described this UPAPA on them as “gross misuse of power”, saying that it is an indirect way of intimidating journalists in the rest of the country as well.  The academics including Noam Chomsky and Ayesha Jalal wrote an open letter to seek United Nations immediate intervention on the issue of the continued persecution of Kashmiri journalists by the Indian government. They wrote “The recent cases against Masarat Zahara, Peerzada Aashiq, and Gowhar Geelani, follow a pattern of harassment and intimidation of journalists in Kashmir”

Kashmir is a colony at present. Neither the people nor the journalists are allowed to dissent against the establishment. Freedom of expression which is the fundamental right of every person is directly fobbed off in Kashmir.  Freedom of the press is curtailed in every which way. Such is the condition of journalists and people in Kashmir that they dare not to utter even the whimper of the protest against oppression and injustice.

Postscript:

                    Hum aaha bi kartay hain too hoo jatay hain badnam

                   WO katael bi kartay hain too charcha nahi hota. Ghalib

Bilal Ahmad Dar is a Research Scholar at the Department of English, AMU and can be mailed at: bilalbismil89@gmail.com


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