Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo

Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo

Greater Kashmir editor and owner Fayaz Ahmad Kaloo was elected president of the Kashmir Editors Guild, last week, for a year long term. With Tahir Mohiuddin and Bashir Manzar as Vice Presidents, representing the Urdu and English newspapers, this is perhaps the first major effort to get voice to the print media that Kashmir reads. In 2015, Kaloo was taken as an associated member by the Editors Guild of India.

KEG is an old body. It took off in 2008-09 but collapsed under its own burden. At the peak of summer unrest 2016, it was revived by some young editors to confront newer challenges that an unpredictable Kashmir offers, sometimes shocking one and all.

Kaloo started GK in 1987 as a weekly newspaper and upgraded it into a daily in 1993. Since then, he has gone into Urdu and is simultaneously publishing from Jammu as well.

But as head of KEG, Kaloo and his team, is not going to be yet another “party”. It has more challenges confronting it than any other association around. It is tragic that the media which has been the voice of all the voiceless from across the ideological, political and social divide of Kashmir lacked its voice. While being an honest postman of the crisis in which Kashmir lives for many decades now, it had rarely found time to manage or even listen to its own issues.

Tragically Kaloo takes over as KEG head at a time when one newspaper Kashmir Reader is banned now for more than two months. How fast can the Reader resume its publication must form the top priority of KEG though this also is a fact that an ‘informal’ KEG that existed for all these months had no business in its frequent meetings other than getting the ban on Reader lifted.

KEG must keep it in mind that while freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitutions of India and J&K, the same freedom of speech offers the space to media to exist as a viable commercial activity too. So KEG has to protect this right for both the reasons.

But there are lots of issues that are no less important.

Srinagar, a city that boats of a recorded millennium long history lacks some space for its chroniclers to sit and discuss. Earlier, it was Coffee House where they would pay to sit, sip and interact. That space has long gone. Srinagar needs a press club as early as possible.

KEG is just the apex body that represents newspapers and then newspapers are huge institutions employing scores, if not hundreds, of journalists, and non journalists. In last more than two decades, nearly 13 of journalists were killed. While the bereaved families have remained grieving as media as an institution could not offer anything other than sympathies, most of the journalists lack access to certain basics like life insurance, health insurance. KEG may have to look at it.

While media has changed many technologies over the years, the systems, procedures and the processes have not changed at all. The babus tasked to manage media are still far away from the changes that are in place. KEG will have to intervene on this front as well.

Kashmir media is fortunate to have KEG but the first year is very crucial for the Guild. It will have to make a clear distinction between media as institution and media as self employment. Credit must go to KEG for electing veterans for steering a change that is keenly required.

(Saima Bhat)

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