In Print Media the news and reporting is supposed to be based on facts as the reporter and managing body of respective newspapers are accountable before the public and civil administration.
Many times the reporters, editors were summoned by the administration for any such report which created any confusion in public. The newspapers are monitored by Department of Information and Public Relations Government of J&K on a daily basis.
The period of turmoil was very tough for working journalists. More than 10 journalists were killed by unknown gunmen while performing their professional duties. It was a gloomy period, working under tremendous pressure from both sides, maintaining balance while reporting and editing.
Neither there is any job guarantee nor life security for working journalists of Valley. There is no welfare scheme for working journalists by Government and even the Government accommodation which was provided earlier to them.
From last few years, like other states, in J&K digital technology has taken over our day to day life. As smart-phones are now an inseparable part of our life, so to update other friends and colleagues about the current affairs, and other incidents, some journalists started WhatsApp groups.
Taking its undue advantage hundreds of unprofessional people have jumped into mass-media. Mobile phones in hands, these people have not only covered sensitive issues in an insensitive way but have many times created problems for general public as well as for administration.
These self styled journalists appear in every nook and corner and have created a space ‘power circles’. The issue was taken up with the concerned department several times but there was no worthwhile response from Administration.
Last year these self-styled journalists covered, and uploaded such content, on social-media that there was strong public anger in many areas of Valley.
In the year 2021 I filed an RTI in the Department of Information and Public Relations, Government of J&K to get information about the portals operating in J&K and the permission granted to any of them for coverage and uploading of videos.
The reply filed by Public Information Officer (PIO) Department of Information astonished me.
As per the reply no permission/registration/NOC has been granted to any portal operating in J&K. So it is obvious that there is no monitoring of these portals by any Department or any Agency.
Another RTI which I filed to concerned Deputy Commissioners on whether any permission has been granted to any portal by concerned District Magistrate. The reply filed by respective Deputy Commissioners was “No”.
The question arises that who is monitoring all this as Social-media platform has now been influenced by awful content creating confusion by raising religious issues. The Administration is wholly responsible for this mushroom growth of portals and self-styled journalists in J&K.
Two years back during a meeting under the Chairmanship of Late Syed Nassarullah Shah, J&K People’s Forum (Civil Society Group) decided to submit a detailed representation to Principal Secretary, Department of Information.
A letter Dated: 16-09-2020 was submitted with the request to take cognizance of the matter. When more than three months passed and there was no response from the concerned department. Then J&K People’s Forum filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) No: 10/2021 in the Hon’ble High Court of J&K and Ladakh. The submission to the Hon’ble High Court was:
It is submitted that there are multiple news agencies and WhatsApp / Facebook/
YouTube news channels and other electronic news agencies operating in both the regions which are actively engaged in the transmission of various types of news bulletins and reports.
It is also known fact that every person with a hanging camera and holding a mic poses himself as a journalist irrespective of the fact whether s/he is authorized and permitted to work as journalist and whether s/he has the requisite qualification.
In absence of any permission having been granted by the competent authority for running a news portal it is sufficient to infer that there is no proper, legal and regulatory mechanism in place at present with the result a state of confusion prevails on the subject as to the genuineness of any news transmitted by such channels/ portals. The Facebook and WhatsApp journalists have now moved a step ahead by blackmailing the government as well as private officials, civil contractors etc. on a daily basis.
As per daily news reports, on the one hand, people across the valley have been severely disturbed by the Coronavirus. On the other hand, fake journalists running Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter pages have become a new virus that has spread everywhere in Kashmir, they are carrying mics and mobile phones in their hands and harass the employees whether government or private.
It is submitted that some people walk around government offices carrying mobile phones, mics in their hands and keep asking various nonsensical questions to the officials of various government offices. Real professional journalists from major newspapers, news channels and news agencies follow a strict code of ethics. But fake journalists continue to harass officials to create viral videos and sensational news stories. It is submitted that such steps also tend to tarnish the image of real journalists and media persons and therefore such vagrants need to be discouraged.
On 03-06-2022, the order was passed by Hon’ble High Court of J&K in which I was advised as Petitioner to submit representation and suggestions to the Principal Secretary to the Government, so that Department can finalize the guidelines for issuing registration/license for portals, pages and social-media, news channels. Department was directed to act most expeditiously as may be permissible in law.
I abided by the order of Hon’ble High Court, and submitted the representation with some suggestions to Principal Secretary Department of Information on 13-07-2022.
But more than seven months have passed and Department of Information has yet to take any decision and to implement Court order in letter and spirit. Copy of Court order was forwarded with a letter to Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary to Lieutenant Governor, but no response from any quarter.
The author is a Senior Journalist, Human Rights Activist, and RTI Activist.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.