Varying, worrying reports from Kashmir

13 Aug,2019

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The crackdown in Jammu and Kashmir after the government bulldozed the abrogation of Article 370 has been an acid test for the media. Sadly, many just failed outright or did not even bother to consider success. Or, let us be fair to them, they redefined success. Passing the test in these cases meant that they successfully managed to push forward the government point of view. People fooled, job done, journalism burnt by the acid of betrayal.

If the people of Kashmir are indeed overjoyed with the government’s actions and moving about freely as the government claims, then well, think for yourself. Why the communications lockdown, why are shops shut, why are opposition leaders under arrest. But even within the media, if anyone asked these questions, our paid lapdog media accused them of being anti-national. That same old line.

As Pannneerselvan, Readers’ Editor for The Hindu, explains the dangers of blocking access and blackening out the news:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/Readers-Editor/information-blackout-leads-to-silence-and-exaggeration/article28984758.ece?homepage=true

AltNews, the fact-checking website, has amongst many other instances, exposed how news agencies, in this case the pro-Modi government ANI, has used wrong or old photographs to mispresent the situation in Kashmir:

https://www.altnews.in/ani-india-tv-portray-photographs-of-mosque-in-jammu-as-eid-prayers-in-srinagar/

The international media has been at the receiving end of pro-government forces, with the BBC, Al Jazeera, The New York Times and Reuters getting maximum flak for not painting a merry picture of the people of Kashmir frolicking about in crocus fields waving photos of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Angry protestors, shuttered shops, barbed wire, a strong security presence, pellet gun injuries, a confused people unable to go to hospitals, get medicines, get on with emergencies have formed the bulk of the reports from those who have merely done basic journalism.

The BBC decided to issue this statement via Twitter when it was accused of lies:

“The BBC stands by its journalism and we strongly refute any claims that we have misrepresented events in Kashmir. We are covering the situation impartially and factually. Like other broadcasters we are currently operating under severe restrictions in Kashmir but will continue to report what is happening.”

https://m.economictimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/government-contacts-al-jazeera-and-bbc-for-their-fabricated-video-on-kashmir/amp_articleshow/70634925.cms?__twitter_impression=true#stickyBanner

 

This report is from Vijaita Singh of The Hindu who chronicled her experiences for Twitter in real time:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kashmir-under-lockdown-i-just-want-to-tell-ammi-i-am-fine/article28917905.ece

 

This is a personal experience from Bashaarat Masood of The Indian Express:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jammu-kashmir-srinagar-curfew-eid-article-370-5899799/

 

In many ways, Twitter has been the frontier for getting information out of the lockdown in Kashmir. Many news outlets, those who have not crossed over to the government’s publicity machine that is, had to rely on editorials and opinion pieces to discuss what was happening in Kashmir. TV studios remained a battleground that looks more and more fake and contrived everyday.

The very fact that information was not forthcoming, with the government insisting that everyone was happy, should have been enough warning for journalists. But not this time. Some independent journalists reported that things were not normal, maybe but not so bad, in a most wishy-washy manner. It’s a bit rich to say everyone on the street you went to was “happy” when there is a strong police presence everywhere and unhappiness on the next street. Disingenuous. Manufactured naivete.

The worst of all were those journalists who publicised photographs of National Security Adviser Ajeet Doval walking about Kashmir as a sign that all was well. Journalists who later spoke to those “happy” people Doval interacted with claimed they did not know who he was, that the so-called “biryani” they shared together was just some random rice and meat curry pushed into their hands by Doval’s security!

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes at the state of the Indian media.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal.

 

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