Muhammad Daheem(Pakistan Observer)
To report human misery without any pressure from any quarter is the basic right of journalists. No body can deny the freedom of expression in the modern age. Nonetheless, journalism is an uphill task in Indian occupied Kashmir. Kashmiris took arms against Indian occupied forces in 1989. Since then several journalists have been harassed, threatened, tortured and severely wounded by the Indian forces and state machinery. Several have survived fatal attacks. Many have lost their lives for the cause of freedom of expression. Even then the Kashmir press does not have the liberty to report facts and realities related to Kashmir issue. Nonetheless, several journalists are struggling to bring into light the realities related to freedom movement in Kashmir.
The puppet regime of Indian held Kashmir is actively engaged in the state sponsored terrorism. The curfew passes of journalists are torn or declined or declared faked. The journalists, in such circumstances, find it difficult to reach their offices. Many news and text messages are blocked or banned to curb the rights of journalists in Kashmir. The Valley journalists are not allowed to express their genuine opinion about grim situation in Kashmir. Despite obstacles the scribes, writers and editors are exposing the atrocities of the Indian forces. The voice of the conscientious journalists is the voice of the freedom of expression.
Kashmir is a valley of tears, death and cemetery of known and unknown martyrs. It is because of the atrocities of the Indian forces. In such circumstances conscientious media plays vital role. It closely watches the grim situation and struggles to portray a true picture of the events. Civilized societies do not tolerate attacks on journalists or arrests of editors and writers serving for the noble cause. The sincere journalists are part and voice of the society and they portray the true picture of the society. Unfortunately Kashmiri journalists have been deprived of presenting true political picture of events in Kashmir. It is one of the most unreported regions of the global world. The number of Indian forces present in the Kashmir region is more than half a million. These forces, a symbol of hatred for the Muslim all over Kashmir, erode media freedom and rights of journalists. The Indian forces try to hush up the damaging details of events from the community of journalists. On Jun. 11, 2010 Indian security forces killed a youth in Srinagar. The schoolboy was returning home from a tuition center. This resulted a series of protests across Kashmir. In consequence 14 more people got killed including several teenagers. A number of Kashmiris were injured as a result of police action.
It was against this background that press associations met and decided to express their protest by suspending the publication of all local English and Urdu language newspapers in the Indian occupied Kashmir. The newspapers suspended publication from July 8 to 11 in 2010—— a rare example in the history of journalism. They did it as a protest “against the government’s policy on the movement restriction of reporters and technical staff ”. Bashir Ahmad Bashir, an editor of an Urdu language daily mourns: “We had to suspend publication of our newspapers for four consecutive days given the restrictions imposed on media personnel. Our curfew passes were cancelled. Reporters and photojournalists were ruthlessly beaten up, while cases were filed against some media persons in an effort to stop them from publishing the reality.” Riyaz Masroor, a senior journalist, was “beaten up ruthlessly by policemen” after he identified himself as a journalist to authorities who stopped him outside his home.
Journalists complain of restrictions on scribes, writers, editors and photojournalists by the state-controlled agencies. The media does not have the liberty to report independently. Journalists, in the light of professional journalistic code of ethics, have the right to express their views that come from the core of their heart. But the freedom of expression is still not acknowledged in the occupied Kashmir. Iftikhar Geelani, a journalist, was charged and arrested under the notorious Indian Official Secrets Act, a product of the British Colonial rule. He was accused of ‘‘storing information about India ‘s military presence in Kashmir and possessing classified documents prejudicial to the safety and security of the country,’’ in his laptop computer. Asiya Jeelani, an editor of a human rights group magazine, died of a mine blast while her colleague Khurram Parvez, an activist, lost his leg. The history of Kashmir is replete with atrocities of Indian forces in Kashmir.
The Kashmir Press is under pressure. Journalists in Kashmir are struggling to stop violation of basic Human rights of journalists — the right to express their viewpoint and report the bitter truth without pressure from any quarter. There are no private satellite television channels or private radio stations in Kashmir. Local cable television channels have been forced to cut their evening news bulletins to just 15 minutes. They are not permitted to rebroadcast the news. State-controlled radio and television are the voice of the puppet regime in Kashmir. These are not considered to be authentic or reliable sources by the public. The Kashmir Press Association, Press Guild of Kashmir, Kashmir journalists’ Corporation, Kashmir Press Photographers Associations and Kashmir Video Journalists Associations are the voices of journalists. These voices are protesting against the government’s stern policy towards journalists and journalism. Daily Kashmir Express, the most circulated newspaper of the state, advocates the right of self- determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This newspaper also highlights their respective problems that people of Kashmir are facing all over the world. Journalists are trying their best to support the voice of the people of Kashmir.
A London-based think-tank survey shows that 75 to 95 percent Kashmiris want independence from the yoke of Indian slavery. The people are in favour of freedom of press. Unfortunately the photojournalists and video journalists opt for self-censorship in case of protest demonstration. This is because they are under pressure and working in difficult times. They are the daily victims of injustice and cruelty of Indian imperialism. From time to time they express their anger against Indian forces. The International Community and Human Rights Organizations should focus on the fate of journalism in Indian held Kashmir. Violation of human rights is common as unidentified gunmen abduct, humiliate and beat up journalists for performing their duty honestly. The reporters, photojournalists and their family members are arrested under the emergency public security law. The police refuses to release them despite logical protests made by the public. The conflict is escalating and even going to be out of control.
Violation of basic rights of journalists is the root cause of many problems. When journalists are denied to reveal the truth to the public it becomes the cause of social unrest in the society. Journalists demand that their basic needs to be met without any foul play. Newspapers are largely dependent on politically controlled advertisements. These newspapers are blackmailed as their payments are withheld for publishing “objectionable” material. It is very difficult for genuine journalists to perform their duties in Kashmir. To ensure safety and security of journalists to perform their duties freely seems to be impossible in present circumstances. Moreover, threats to human rights defenders are common. Even the organizations seeking justice for journalists are considered dangerous and hushed up to talk of human rights in Kashmir.
The journalists seek life saving methods while reaching the place of accident or clash between the Indian forces and the freedom fighters. The fear of death haunts them while covering the important events. In the unpredictable scenario, the future of journalism seems to be bleak in Kashmir unless occupied forces leave this beautiful valley. The journalists are the torchbearers for press freedom. They know peace cannot be achieved by brutal use of force. It can be achieved through justice and fair play for all.