Free, not fancy free
Before asking how free, we need to ask how responsible our press is
INKSIGHT BY MEHMOOD U RASHID
We all ‘celebrated’ the World Press Freedom Day. Local cable TV channels had a good day recording statements from political leaders, some ‘known’ faces of bureaucracy, and of course some fraternity members. Done in a clumsy manner it was a hilarious thing to watch. The Day became an occasion for everyone to talk about what he would otherwise also like to talk about. It was absurd to the limits. The way statements were recorded and beamed at us was not just an amateurish mode of doing things but was indicative of how non-serious, if not non-sensical, it all has grown around us. On this we must stop here as it’s not about how local TV channels have made it a laughing stock for serious viewers, but about how informed and closer we are to the ideas that different Days represent. Since most of the Days that are celebrated or observed in this part of the world are anchored in the fundamental ideas that the modern day western civilization stands for we follow them uncritically, and most of the times even unawares.
Although there is no harm being part of the global symbolism, one is at least expected to know what these different symbols stand for and how they emerged in their current forms. From Environment to Society, from State to People, from Family to Individual, from Intellectual to Cultural, there are bundles of symbols, in the form of Days, Weeks and even Years that represent a concern, a challenge, an event, or a value. We may or may not be a part of that fundamental urge which gives birth to a symbol, but strangely we adopt it with an untrammeled acceptance. It not only makes us blind to our own world of concerns and challenges but also turns us vacuous inside.
Centuries back when the foundations of the modern world were being laid down in the West, Muslim East was hurtling down the path of degeneration. While the sun was rising on West it was simultaneously setting in the East. Since Kashmir is a part of Muslim East, our rise and fall is inescapably attached to it. So there are two strands that constitute our historic movement to become a civilisation worth its name; one, Muslim and another East. When we decide to accept certain symbol that has attained global proportions we must ask ourselves if it resonates with the matrix of our civilizational being. After having consciously and in the full light of knowledge understood a particular symbol we can either fully accept it, completely reject it or may be incorporate some changes and tailor it to our own world of ideas and institutions. That is one fundamental point.
Another immediate concern is that till the intellectual foundations are laid firm and structures of practices are built over them, we can at least be serious participants in the modern day celebrations. Unfortunately we are not. From the government down to an insignificant NGO we act like clowns on the stage of symbols. This is what happens with World Press Freedom Day. It essentially belongs to the western urge to contain the power of the government and bolster the central value of western civilisation– Freedom. In its formal shape it was presented by The United Nations General Assembly to underline the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now if we celebrate or observe this Day, may be we ought to underline that UN owes us, as a people, much more than a Day for Freedom of Press!
Beyond this the more poignant question; should we always cry hoarse about the external pressures on media in Kashmir or else be concerned about the infirmity of this institution in our Valley, owing to our own weaknesses. We all know that in the kind of situation media works here some ugly things are bound to happen. The source of this ugliness can be governments, agencies, political parties, militant organizations, and social practices and beliefs. Rather than sticking permanently to this talk of Press Freedom, better use energies to help this institution grow on professional lines, contribute meaningfully to it, and make it full of content. Just a look at our newspapers and it gets known that majority of them are only meant to earn a livelihood for a family or may be a couple of families. Many publications are completely dependent on government advertisements and serve no purpose when it comes to the institution of journalism. Also the number of issues that our newspapers usually deal with is extremely limited. No effort is made to push the ring of topics further. We hesitate talking about a social issue that might earn a bit of ire from some particular quarter. When it is so do we deserve raise the pitch over Press Freedom. The fact of the matter is that we hardly use the amount of freedom that is available with us. We normally grumble over the problems posed to us because of the conflict housed by Kashmir, forgetting that it was primarily this situation that threw the institution of journalism to some prominence in Kashmir.
Even worse is the case of local TV channels. No doubt it is all a fledging body. But the way these channels seem to be acting out a profession; repulsive indeed. On this Day it was better to look into how Responsible the media in Kashmir is, rather than how Free it is. The amount of Freedom that we enjoy here is much more than we actually are capable of using. But the content of responsibility is extremely thin.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 May 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 5 May 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 6 May 2010 00:00:00 IST
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