These are tough times for the journalists in Kashmir. There are visible and invisible threats – more so, for the local media whose content becomes a subject of daily contention among the warring parties. And should any party choose to see anything wrong in a story, covert and overt threats follow. The arrest of Aasif Sultan, a journalist with a local magazine, has only made things worse. Sultan was picked up apparently for a story he did on the slain militant commander Burhan Wani on his second death anniversary. Now the police has accused him of harbouring a known militant and glorifying militancy by his news reports. These are extreme allegations and should be a source of deep anxiety for the journalists in the state. Earlier Auqib Javeed, a journalist working with this publication was summoned to New Delhi by National Investigative Agency for interviewing the woman separatist leader Asiya Andrabi. And earlier still, the photojournalist Kamran Yusuf spent around six months in jail after he was similarly picked up by the NIA for his work. And while security agencies have been training their guns at the local journalists, the editor of Rising Kashmir Syed Shujaat Bukhari was killed by the people whose identity and motivations are a subject of investigation and speculations.
The editors are also getting notices about the published content and are asked to explain it. Similarly, the media can’t ignore the statements issued by the separatist organizations. In a sense, media is being victimized for just doing its job. In a conflict situation, the media has to give space to every party and also tell stories of the people. One party shouldn’t and can’t expect us to stop giving coverage to another. But the governments growing inability to appreciate the situation in which media operates has created an uncertain state of affairs among the journalists. The new approach towards media is of a piece with the centres policy of an iron-fisted approach towards Kashmiri leaders and the supporters of the ongoing separatist movement.
Big question is, whether these measures will help the cause of peace in Kashmir. If past is any guide, such measures, though unprecedented in their ferocity now, have done little to ameliorate the situation. One can only hope that New Delhi understands the futility of the use of force and harsh measures to control the situation, sooner than later. It is also time that the central and the state governments offer assurance to the media fraternity. Situation has become fraught and the danger lurks in the shadows. The actors involved are operating behind the scenes. We expect all the parties to appreciate the difficult circumstances under which journalists work in the state and how it is important to bear with us and allow us to objectively report the extraordinary situation prevailing on the ground.
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