‘Security Forces Delete Our Footage’: Kashmir’s Local Journalists

‘Security Forces Delete Our Footage’: Kashmir’s Local Journalists

India

Video editors: Vishal Kumar and Sandeep Suman
Video producer: Hera Khan

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Local journalists in Kashmir are upset and scared, struggling to share stories from the Valley. What is the reason?

Whenever freedom of speech is curtailed, we are reminded of a couplet from Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poem, “Bol ke lab aazad hain tere, bol zaban ab tak teri hai.” The couplet is pertinent in the Valley’s condition post the abrogation of Article 370.

The national media is putting out an array of reports but are local journalists in Jammu and Kashmir able to report the true state of affairs? Outside the Press Club in J&K, we tried to find out how local journalists are carrying on with reporting amid the crisis.

JOURNALISTS ALLEGE THEY AREN’T ALLOWED FREE & FAIR REPORTING

A BBC Urdu reporter, Shafat Farooq, told us that he is uninspired by whatever the Indian media is doing in the name of journalism as only one narrative is being reported on Kashmir: Everything is fine. He says that of whatever is being reported about Kashmir, the opposite is true.

Mohammad Dawood, a journalist working for The Kashmir Monitor said that Kashmir's online media is reporting something entirely different. “We know the ground reality but they (national media) are showing something entirely different: The situation is fine, Eid celebrations went well and there are even traffic jams,” Dawood said.

Sana Irshad Matu, a freelance journalist said that what is being shown by the channels, of normalcy having been restored in the Valley, is not true.

“If things had become normal, then connectivity would have been restored.” 
Sana Irshad Matu, Freelance Journalist 

SECURITY FORCES DELETING FOOTAGE

Shafat Farooq said that the Indian media will never do a story on protests in Kashmir or stone pelting.

“We went to cover the incident but were made to delete all our footage.”
Shafat Farooq, BBC Urdu

He said that journalists being made to delete their footage is a story in itself. He further questioned who was responsible for the same: the police, the CRPF, the Army or the State.

Dawood said that they aren’t allowed to go out and shoot, and if, in the off chance of them being able to shoot something secretly, Army and police personnel would delete their footage.

“Even if we manage to escape somehow, we have to take the pen drive to the airport and send it to Delhi, where our stories will be filed.” 
Mohammad Dawood, The Kashmir Monitor

STATE BIASED TOWARDS INDIAN, INT’L MEDIA

Dawood said that it’s been ten days since the local newspaper has been shut, the reason for which is the unjust treatment meted out to local journalists. Only the national media is being highlighted. He feels that the local media should be allowed to work.

“They are being escorted in helicopters. They are not reporting the real situation in Kashmir. No local journalist is being given access.”
Mohammad Dawood, The Kashmir Monitor

Muzammil said that the police is not allowing journalists to cover the situation in the Valley.

He said that journalists from Delhi roam around freely and there are no restrictions on them, but local journalists, on the other hand, are not allowed to do the same, even if they work for international organisations.

SCARED FOR THEIR LIVES, JOURNALISTS ARE TRYING HARD TO FILE STORIES

Farooq enumerated many kinds of problems, especially the pressure put on local media by the State.

A local journalist said that they have to think twice before reporting a story since they live in the state.

“We have to think about all the problems, the NIA and other security agencies here can take action against us.”
Local Journalist 

WILL THE TRUTH REMAIN HIDDEN?

He further stated that whatever local journalists cover, they are saving on SD card and are waiting for Internet connectivity to be restored in order to report the truth.

Till then, the story of Kashmir remains in the dark...

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