World Press Freedom Day: Journalists recollect harassments they suffer
Srinagar, May 03: As World Press Freedom Day was observed on Thursday, with the journalists in Kashmir recalling curbs and harassment imposed on media fraternity over the years.
The World Press Freedom Day is observed on May 3rd. This year the theme was ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law’.
The day is observed to pay tribute to those journalists who have lost their lives while working on the stories they were passionate about.
Addressing this theme, the valley-based journalists feel there is little to celebrate as they continue to suffer while reporting on human rights abuses in the strife-torn valley.
Senior journalist, Yousuf Jameel said, “When it comes to press freedom, the Valley lags behind.”
“We have seen and experienced it over these years. No doubt, press is free in India but when it comes to Kashmir and other conflict zones, people have drawn a line.”
Jameel lamented that the valley was reeling “under conflict” and authorities further “curb their opportunities to report”.
“They create circumstances, in which it becomes difficult for us to perform our duties. There are recurrent curfews and strikes, internet clampdowns. No curfew and accreditation pass is given to the journalists in such a scenario,” he said.
Jameel regretted that the many important issues go unreported.
“Hundreds of incidents take place on daily basis that are worth reporting. One needs an official quote for that. Unfortunately, they don’t come forward to speak on the matter. There are handful of tweets and Facebook posts but overall the situation is not satisfactory.”
Speaking about the treatment meted to reporters, Jameel said some organizations give low wages to their staff despite making good profits.
While referring to the past, Jameel recalled many horrific incidents and harassment he faced at the hands of people and the government while reporting.
“In one incident, I lost one of my dear colleagues, Mushtaq Ali in the parcel bomb. In another incident, I was attacked by police and I was under immense pressure that I should leave this place. There were threats from both sides,” he said.
Jameel believes the aspiring journalists should be not be worried about earning quick bucks rather they should strive towards doing solid reportage.
“The budding journalists are often told about not take this career path as there is less scope to make money. When it comes to practicing honest journalism, you may not be able to earn much. But you will earn respect and with time, the big opportunities will follow you,” he said.
Anuradha Bhasin, another senior journalist, said the freedom and independence of press is under “much more strain” in the valley than rest of the country.
“The journalists have to face the wrath of security forces and now they have to face the public anger as well. Besides this, there is a tremendous pressure from the government,” she said.
Bhasin said, in recent times, the government has repeatedly stopped the flow of information by not letting the journalists’ report freely.
Bhasin said that there are number of good publications coming and strong voices coming up.
“Be as professional as you can, bring as many perspectives as you can in a story, and as rational as logical in your comment pieces,” she said in her message to budding journalists.
Khuram Parvez, wrote on Facebook, “On the world Press Freedom Day, we should salute the courage of all those Kashmiri journalists who have risked their lives for highlighting the truth. Despite threats, bans, arrests, killings most newspapers here kept the tradition of truth telling alive.”
In a report released by international media advocacy group ‘Reporters Without Borders (RSF),’ the journalists in Kashmir are often the “targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent”, said a report It added that the coverage of Kashmir, continues to be very “difficult, and there are no protective mechanisms”.
“Journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent,” the report reads.
Referring to 2016 unrest in Kashmir, the report said that the Internet was “cut by the military and was often interrupted thereafter to prevent communication between protesters and prevent coverage by the media and citizen journalists”.