It was an impressive gathering that had gathered to interact with the visiting sub-committee that Press Council of India had sent to Kashmir. Mandated to report about the overall security of the journalists, the sub committee was the outcome of the happenings in 2010 when an information blockade was informally put in place that neither permitted newspaper to print nor reporters to move around. Given the systems in place, the press council members pointed out, it took slightly longer time to constitute the sub committee.
Visiting journalists were accorded a warm welcome though it was clearly pointed out that inordinate delay had been made in making such trip to Kashmir that has been fighting solely a battle for its existence. It obviously has been a razor edge walk despite certain improvements over the years. Journalists flagged a number of issues that Press Council might like to take up in coming days, if it wishes so. With the help of two members who were co-opted from Kashmir by the sub-committee for the specific purpose of the visit, they will be making a longer report for the Press Council to consider. Regardless of a few suggestions that were made by individuals who have opted for journalistic career post retirement, the overall basket of the suggestions was alright. For a place that has lost more than 15 working journalists to the conflict in last more than 20 years, the individual security of the reporters especially the photo journalists was a top priority. It was shared by both sides.
Referring to the detailed communication that took place between Press Council of India Chairman, Justice Markandey Katju and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in last more than one year, journalists said they are not against the idea of a formal system being encouraged to evolve that will help photo-journalists being identified while reporting a situation. Photographers who spoke did talk in detail about the problems they face while covering the situation and in the newsroom when they go home with meager packages, at least in the vernacular media. While some of the journalists did refer to the information blockade still in vogue – they referred to the dichotomy at policy level that permits certain things in Jammu but not in Srinagar. The issue of advertisements from the Central Government was raked up by almost everybody. It is indeed a major crisis that state’s major newspapers from Kashmir have been denied DAVP advertisements for last more than two years. Besides, some of the central government institutions operating in the state have been directed not to place their advertisements in the ‘black-listed’ papers.
And finally, some participants suggested PCI to look into its past records and try to correct the mistakes. It was genuinely pointed out that one of the last reports that a sub committee drafted in wake of alleged mass rapes in Kunan was an indictment of the media corps that added to their vulnerability in the subsequent years. The suggestion was that the report be withdrawn which will eventually help the council to get a moral high ground to take up issues confronting media in Kashmir.