The year 2012 saw the addition of many new newspapers, expansions and major non-local media houses flying to Srinagar to set up a base. The tragic demise of one of the most respected journalists this year, however, will be remembered for a long time to come, Sameer Yasir reports.
“Congress party high command has the final authority to decide the 2014 elections, while CM Omar Abdullah has every right to talk about this matter.”
Saif ud din Soz, a senior Congress member while addressing party workers at the celebrations of the victory of coalition government in legislative council polls.
The year 2012 not only saw the emergence of new newspapers with fresh perspective hitting the stands, but it also bought dynamism and open national intervention to journalism in valley. Although the entry of Delhi based newspaper houses is not new to Kashmir but this year saw a Chandigarh based newspaper publishing from Srinagar with a ‘regional issue’. The entry, openly endorsed by the state, was termed as an attempt to “create an alternative narrative” on issues which are largely dictated by the regional media outlets.
First, it was Indian Express which started publishing from Jammu and later shut down its operations. The Times of India also started publishing a weekly supplement, for Jammu and for Srinagar. Now, the Chandigarh-based newspaper, The Tribune, has made an entry into the media scenario in Kashmir by launching its Kashmir Tribune.
Its success would largely depend on how the newspaper would deal with local issues. There is always an editorial line which gives edge to the local newspapers over national newspapers when it comes to covering Kashmir. National papers have to take care of the ‘national interest’ which insulates them from the local readership.
Kashmir’s frontline newspaper Greater Kashmir marked its entry into the outdoor advertizing. The move was almost inversely equal to an outdoor advertizing agency Helpline Advertizing Service (HAS) getting into publishing with Kashmir Reader early this year.
Generally, the media outlets rely on private sector. But given the limitation of private sector and its capacity to use newer publications as courier of its message, all the new entries are eventually seeking its pie from the government advertizing budget which continues to be stagnant for a long time. While it is consistently being shared, divided and subdivided every year, it will eventually help in making the fittest to survive, insiders in the media believe. Numerically, there might be thousands of newspapers being listed in the official records, but the real mass media in print is restricted to around a dozen publications.
It has started showing already. State’s Information Department found owners of a category of newspapers, which would hardly hit the stands, not publishing regularly, as per the norms. Most of them had been publishing not more than five copies per month, instead of the required 30 copies for a daily newspaper. Immediately, the advertisement support by the government was stopped and resumed after they gave undertakings that they will follow the established norms.
The traditional media still rules the roost; be it the shoddy regional channel of Doordarshan or the Urdu newspapers which reach the length and breadth of the state.
Journalism in Kashmir, however, suffered a major setback with the tragic demise of Izhar Wani, described as the ‘Gentleman of the Tribe’ who died fighting colon cancer in April. His death shocked not just the journalist fraternity but also the people outside it. Izhar, 46, started his career in early 1990’s and reported Kashmir for two decades for the international news agency, AFP whose Asia- Pacific director, Eric Wishart said that Izhar’s untimely death has ‘robbed India and AFP of a great correspondent’. Izhar is survived by wife and two daughters and will be remembered for a long time to come.
Another Kashmiri journalist who started his career in Pakistan administered Kashmir and later worked for the American Embassy in Islamabad died in his native village in Wadwan, Budgam. Hafizullah Mir had crossed LoC for arms training in 1990 but ended up resuming his studies. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pak University and Masters Degree in Mass Communication from Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad.
After completing his studies, he started working for the US embassy in Islamabad and from 2002 worked as a Media Analyst. In Oct 2005, he was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer. But he continued to work right till June 2012. Hafizullah was able to go back home to Srinagar after 21 years via Nepal and spent his last 80 days with his family in pain, grief and sorrow. He passed away early morning on Oct 23 in Srinagar and was laid to rest close to the grave of his grandfather in Wadwan.
Senior journalist and political analyst, Shujaat Bukhari who worked for The Hindu for more than a decade took over as the Editor-in-Chief of his daily Rising Kashmir. The Hindu picked Ahmad Ali Fayyaz, a former The Daily Excelsior man, as his successor.
The other highlight on the media scene was that most of the satellite channels ceased their operations in Jammu because it does not offer any action for the TV. Jammu is now part of the territorial jurisdiction of Srinagar based crews. The major development is mass scale involvement of people in social media. In fact a couple of websites offering long and short form of news have marked their entry and most of them are part of the class room bubble lacking any revenue model.