Republic Day Without Media

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The past two years have been a difficult period for the journalism in Kashmir. Journalists have been arrested and questioned. The newspapers have received intermittent notices for their coverage. The veteran journalist and editor Shujaat Bukhari  was killed. But  even  amid this difficult state of affairs, it is difficult to imagine that the senior journalists can be barred from reporting a  government event. But on January 26, this is exactly what came to pass in Kashmir. The journalists were stopped from covering Republic Day function at Bakshi stadium on the pretext of the “adverse CID report” against them. Among them was the veteran photojournalist Mehraj ud Din who has otherwise covered the event since 1979. This despite the fact that the police had issued the security clearance against them. The event was later boycotted by many journalists. The various journalist associations held protests against the authorities. Though the advisor to governor K Vijay Kumar promised to look into the matter, there has so far been no follow-up action. And which is both understandable and predictable. 

The development is of a piece with the way the state governments, including the democratically elected, are choosing to deal with the local media, particularly the one from Kashmir Valley, over the past some years.Two journalists  have so far been picked up by the law enforcement agencies for their work over the past two years. Several have been questioned. This has been a cause of deep worry in the Valley. Journalists are rightly troubled by the state of affairs.   Government, it appears, wants to drastically circumscribe what should be reported and what should be left out. Barring  the journalists from covering  the Republic Day event symbolizes this state of affairs.

Journey of  journalism in Kashmir over the  past three decades has been remarkable. It enjoys a sterling reputation  for having been a by and large clean mirror of the troubled situation over the past three decades. More so, considering the extraordinary situation the local journalists have had to cover. There may be some questions on the quality of reporting and the inadequate focus on some aspects of life in the state, but the conflict in the Valley has been extensively and largely professionally reported. Kashmir now has reporters and the photographers whose work has been nationally and internationally acknowledged. But, it is a tragedy, their work and the effort is not only not acknowledged by the state government but it also distrusts them, which only adds insult to the injury. One can only hope that the government acts to change the situation for the better and provides the media space to operate which it is duty bound to do.

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