National

The ‘official version’ — only possible side to the narrative

A M Jigeesh Recently in J&K | Updated on September 06, 2019 Published on September 06, 2019

(file photo) the routine job of verifying what is being put out officially is imperilled in Kashmir   -  NISSAR AHMAD

Journalists struggle to verify news amidst restrictions on Internet, phone

News filters through one mobile phone and five computer terminals at a hotel basement next to the UN office in Srinagar. A visit to the Valley last week showed that with no access to internet or phones elsewhere; with road blockades, barriers and prominent political leaders under house arrest, the routine job of verifying what is being put out officially is nearly impossible in Kashmir.

There are about 30 newspapers/magazines registered in Srinagar and a number of TV channels have bureaus in the city. Most of them are barely able to print a couple of hundred institutional copies. “There is a 10-day delay in bringing out our weekly. We are not able to locate our staff members, including designers yet. Some of them are from South Kashmir. We don’t know their whereabouts,” said a senior editor of Kashmir Life, a 32-page weekly printed and circulated in the city. “The last edition had just eight pages,” he added.

“There is obvious pressure on us,” said a senior journalist who has covered Kashmir for over three decades for many mainstream English dailies. “This facilitation centre itself is an example of surveillance. Internet is provided in five terminals connected through local-area network. Everything you write, you file, is recorded, including passwords,” the journalist said.

An office-bearer of the Kashmir Press Club said at least three journalists were detained for a brief period by the Police. “I woke up at midnight hearing the police siren. I thought they were looking for me. But it was to arrest another person in the neighbourhood,” he said.

The five computer terminals at the facilitation centre are used for designing and editing the newspapers and journals in the city. “Even the big newspapers are unable to print much copies. They are just publishing for namesake. The reports are sourced from agencies. There are no original stories. Advertisements have also come down drastically,” a senior journalist said.

A journalist, working for a foreign news agency said that there was no reporting at all for the 10 days following the abrogation of Article 370. “We didn’t report for the first 10 days. There were no channels of communication,” the journalist said, adding that the facilitation centre was created only because of the pressure put by the petition filed by the Kashmir Times executive editor Anuradha Bhasin in Supreme Court, citing “strict restrictions on freedom of movement of journalists and media personnel in Kashmir”.

Dealing with rumours

The journalist added that the main issue is dealing with rumours. “The city is under tight security. We often hear rumours about clashes with police and protesters. But there is no way to confirm the reports. All leaders of the Opposition are under arrest. So we are totally dependent on the government’s version of everything,” the reporter said.

The Srinagar Press Club said in a recent statement that unprecedented communication blockade has crippled the reporters, preventing them from reporting the ground situation. “Since the communication blockade was imposed over the region on August 5, the Club took up the issue with government authorities on several occasions, urging them to restore mobile phones, Internet and telephone landlines to journalists and media outlets, including newspapers, and also the Club itself,” a statement by the Press Club said.

“But all these efforts have proved to be futile as these services have not been restored till date,” it added. A number of journalists’ associations in Delhi had questioned the Centre on the media clampdown in the Valley.

Published on September 06, 2019
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