On Monday, it was a festival like scene at the Kashmir Press Club. Almost all journalists had converged at the KPC premises to participate in the maiden election for the office bearers. The polling crossed 90 percent. The announcement of the victorious candidates was accompanied by an euphoric celebration. Until a few years ago, it was unthinkable that Kashmir will have a press club. Earlier establishing a club had become a tricky issue, mired in the politics of the ongoing turmoil in the state. But now that it has been set up, the press club has hit the ground running. Journalists have ensured it turns out to be a success. And the Monday’s election was a proof of this. The day will certainly go down as a milestone in the history of journalism in the Valley.
That said, the journalism in the Valley even otherwise has done itself proud over the past three decades. Journey of journalism in Kashmir over this period 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.
This is more so, when the media in Kashmir, comprising a robust English and vernacular press has a particularly unenviable job to do. The problems faced by it are both universal to the conflict situations and unique to the state. One of the major problems bedeviling the freedom of expression in the state is the economic sustainability of the local newspapers. Being a place with only a fledgeling private sector and little industrial presence, government advertising is a predominant source of revenue for the newspapers. This gives government enormous power to influence news agenda. This renders the local press prone to the pulls and pressures from the various interests in the state.
On the whole, however, the local media has managed to skirt such pressures and done an excellent job of covering the prevailing extraordinary situation in the state. The Press Club will certainly be a bone for the media. It has, for once, given the journalists a voice and a platform. More importantly, it has given journalists a place to meet, discuss and debate their issues and arrive at a way out. The new elected team will be charged with the onerous responsibility to realize the potential of the club. Here’s hoping that they live up to the promise.