BHAT MARIYA: “With the sort of censorship, the press in Kashmir is facing journalism that has become like walking on a double edged sword. You know everybody is reconsidering journalism as a career which is very sad in democratic setup “, said Qazi Shibli.
When India faced the mother of all [Covid -19 pandemic] lockdowns Qazi Shibli was released after 9 months from Jail. His jail time was marked by 2 massive lockdowns; Arrested just weeks before the Kashmir lockdown [Abrogation of Article 370] and was released in the middle of pandemic 2020.
He was accused of “Waging War “against the country, as he broke the story of deploying additional troops in the valley in a huge number. That’s why in an interview he was asked what he was jailed for; he replied, ‘my crime was that I had committed Journalism’.
But we all know that the press is a major part of right of expression, the Constitution of India in Article 19 (1) lays down that “All citizens shall have the right to Freedom of speech and expression and it includes the right to press also.”
In a democratic country, students study about the four pillars of democracy i.e Judiciary, Executive, legislature, & media. And the strength of democracy depends upon the strength of each pillar. So, when one pillar starts losing its capability and potential other three shrink automatically. Freedom of press has always been cherished right in all democracies. Growth and development of representative democracy are so intertwined with the growth of the press that the press has come to be recognized as an institutional limb of modern democracy.
Speaking of democracy political scientists and experts always say there are four pillars of democracy namely the judiciary, executive, legislative and media. More functioning judiciary as an Institution of democracy, the executive is more to the government while the legislature as an institution that makes the laws and oversees government performance.
Media is an important and inseparable part of democratic society. It is in fact called the fourth pillar of democracy. Why can the media be regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy? Because oftentimes people assume that the media is more neutral and free from elements of state power, In contrast with the previous three pillars which are all oriented to power, the media not only as a source of news but it is also the voice of the people carrier and fittings.
For a country that prides itself on the strength of its democracy, India’s record in upholding the freedom of press has been consistently poor. Currently, India ranks 142 in the 2020 World Press Freedom index. The position is changing every year in a descending manner.
The scenario of the current administration on media policy is a serious threat to press freedom. The Jammu & Kashmir on 15 May assent sanction to revert new media policy that intends creating a sustained narrative on the functioning of Government in media.
The fifty three page policy prepared by Directorate of Information and public Relations (DIPR) headed by Dr. Sehrish Asgar and approved for execution by Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal, both bureaucrats of Indian Administration not only lay down the isopleths of what journalism is but also prosecution of journalist under Indian Penal code and Cyber Laws for what the administration would decide as “Fake news “. According to this policy, the journalists and news organizations are only answerable to the Government bureaucrats and security officials and to their readers or to their editors; those (official) can judge and have the powers to decide which news item is fake or anti national and can take legal action against the journalist or media organization concerned, including stopping government advertisements and sharing information with security agencies. The DIPR has no authority to decide and judge what fake news is. They are no experts on media or news, they are completely altering the definition of media as something that should project only the achievements of the government and act to amplify [Government] propaganda.
Two months ago, two Kashmiri Journalists, Masrat Zehra and Gowher Geelanj were booked under rigorous anti terrorism legislation, the unlawful activities (prevent ion) Act while other FIR was filed against a report published in The Hindu reported by its Kashmir correspondent Peerzada Ashiq.
These constraints are not new for the Kashmiri journalists. Since the outbreak of armed rebellion in Kashmir in early 1990, the media in the world’s most heavily militarized region has had to work on razor’s edge. Nineteen Journalists have been killed during Conflict since 1990. Threats to life, intimidation, assault, arrest and censorship have been part of the life of every typical local Journalist.
Journalists have been targeted by security forces and militants alike. Publication has been denied federal government adverts a key source of revenue for smaller newspapers. We read the newspaper daily, watch the 9pm news, we never miss an update and we think everything is fine in India. Think again!
Paper of 2019, “Getting away with Murder” reads about the issue of press in India.
- 200 Attacks on Journalists in India since 2014
- Zero convictions for attacking journalists.
- 40 Journalists killed in India between 2014 – 2019 [6 Deaths in 2019 itself]
- 21 killed for professional reasons
- 30 Journalists killed since 2010 and only 3 convictions so far
- J Dey Killed in 2011
- Rajesh killed in 2012
- Rajesh Mishra killed in 2014.
- Just 3 conventions for 30 killings of Journalists Since 2010 .
- 4th conviction took 17 years
- The case of Journalist Ram Chandra Chatterji killed in 2002 .
- 198 Serious attacks.
36 attacks in 2019 during CAA protest.
Journalists have been
Blinded by Pellet Guns.
Forced to drink liquor laced with urine
Petrol bombs thrown at their homes
And they were specifically targeted by
Supporters of Religious sects.
The Irony is that The NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) Report has no Data on Crime against journalists. Even during Covid – 19 pandemic many Journalists have been targeted for their Reports. A report by a Delhi based think tank says that 55 journalists have been charged for various offences during the lockdown triggered by the Covid – 19.
George Orwell has rightly said,” Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
Imagine what the world would be like, what the history books say and how it would be in the dark if they don’t tell the story. To protect people, rich or poor, old or young, black or white; to guard us from the worst, offer to share the light on the best and to tell the stories that inspire us is how they make society better and democracy stronger. This is the Media.