NIA’s convenient scape-goat

Obnoxious definition of journalism reveals the victimization of one professional and tarring of entire media fraternity in Kashmir,The chargesheet on Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf arrested in September 2017 for his alleged involvement in stone-pelting incidents by the Nation Investigating Agency is a shocking reflection of a dictatorial and fascist regime. Going beyond its mandate, the chargesheet filed by the NIA in January maintains that Yousuf is not a bonafide journalist and sought to redefine the role of a journalist.

It stated that “a real journalist should cover the government’s development activities, inaugurations of hospitals and schools, and statements of ruling parties”. Such comments only go to prove that there is lack of evidence against Kamran Yousuf and that he is simply being victimized by such flimsy and misplaced definitions of journalists. Neither is the NIA competent to give sermons on what good journalism is, nor would it understand that the basic principles of journalism are best reflected by the ability of journalists to speak truth to power not by highlighting the achievements of those in power. Journalists are not cogs of the public relations mechanism and instead have the independence to choose the subjects they should highlight. Earlier, soon after his arrest, reports in the media quoting the NIA officials had maintained that Kamran Yousuf was constantly reporting the stone pelting incidents in South Kashmir and was the first to reach the spot, averring that he was instigating youngsters to pelt stones.

This assertion is both clumsy and preposterous. Stone pelting protests are a ground reality in Kashmir and the ability to take pictures of such events does not amount to instigation, it shows the journalistic capability and professional capacity of the man in question. If he was one of the first to reach the spot, it only reflects his professional qualities. Clearly, right from the day one, there has been no evidence against Kamran and there is every likelihood that he is being made a scapegoat. The views expressed by the NIA in its chargesheet further endorse this point. Kamran has already spent several days in custody, despite South Kashmir police chief said there is no FIR or complaint registered against Kamran in any police station.

While, there is need for the government to intervene in this case where there are substantial grounds to believe that the photo-journalist is being made a scape-goat, there is also need to oppose tooth and nail the bid by the NIA to tarnish the entire section of media. NIA said in the chargesheet, “Media responsible for uploading such videos also seem not playing their role in peace, prosperity and communal harmony in the valley and by uploading such videos they may be favourite locally, but they also are equally responsible for cause of the present situation in the valley, which if felt appropriate, NIA should communicate to PCI.” For decades, media persons have faced threats, harassment and censorship in various forms and negotiated their way through these obstructions and tried to maintain their professional ethics. Media in Kashmir presents the ground realities in Kashmir, by and large and it is this truth that is disliked in certain corridors of power. After 2010, the interlocutors report fell into the same trap by indicting all of local media for what it called ‘negative reporting’ and suggesting that this be balanced by allowing national media to make greater inroads into the Valley. This NI remarks show the whole political tilt towards media, particularly the Kamran Yousuf case and the way the investigation has undergone. The NIA does not have the kind of expertise to pass such kind of judgement on who is a good media person or what media should actually be like. The perverse standards of journalism that NIA has elaborated in its chargesheet do not only smack of ignorance but also reflect a dangerous conspiracy to weaken the media in Kashmir which is already walking on the razor’s edge. They must be opposed for their obnoxiousness.