Two private vehicles owned by Kashmir Observer staffers came under attack from the stone throwers at two different locations in Srinagar and Pampore when they were on way to their office at Dalgate, injuring two journalists. The Press sticker on the cars didn’t deter the attackers and instead turned them more violent. They manhandled a journalist and damaged the car. The car of another staffer was attacked at Pampore. This is a disturbing development and is of a piece with many such incidents over the past 54 days. Press in Valley continues to be under assault from the security agencies and occasionally from groups of stone throwers. This has created a fraught environment for journalists. They have become a fair game for both the state and the protesters.
But while one could understand the government effort to prevent journalists from discharging their duties, it is difficult to see why protesters have become so hostile to the Fourth Estate. More so, against the local journalists whose reports have been instrumental in drawing the world’s attention towards Kashmir. The local newspapers have similarly played a great role by documenting the human rights excesses and articulating the prevailing situation for the people in Valley and for the world. The local media with its exclusively Valley-centric focus has helped uncover the shades of the truth that have otherwise found little resonance in the larger Kashmir debate. Reporters have gone in the direct line of fire covering bloody gun battles, massacres and grenade throws. They have chronicled the plight of widows, recorded disappearances and reported the plight of the families of missing.
The media in Kashmir, comprising a robust English and vernacular press and online sites, have a particularly unenviable job to do. The problems faced by it are both universal to the conflict situations and unique to the state. It is hobbled by the dearth of the advertising resources and the dependence on the government advertisements. But despite that, media has done an amazing job in Kashmir by reporting honestly and objectively the situation in the state.
Our performance over the course of the current uprising has been no different. We discharged the same onerous responsibility when the state government chose to put a stop to it and in the crudest way possible early on in this protest. Police in a midnight swoop seized the newspapers in Srinagar and prevented their distribution. It was only four days after that the government said there was, in fact, no ban.
But while Government assaults have been along expected lines and the journalists havenever let these distract them from doing their job, it is the attacks by the protesters which worry us the most. For it hardly benefits the cause of Kashmir to hold a journalist back from discharging his professional responsibility. It is in the interest of the people in Valley to facilitate our work rather than hamper it. To be fair to pro-freedom groups, they have time and again called on the protesters not to attack the journalists and accused those doing so as acting at the behest of the government agencies. We don’t know what the motivation of those who attacked us was and whether they were acting on behalf of some vested interests. We only want that the youth who have been at the vanguard of the ongoing uprising themselves identify these black sheep, probe their motivations and take them to task for their reprehensible actions. This is important that this is done as failing to do so threatens to turn Kashmir resistance into a free for all.
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