Spare the ‘messenger’!

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Even though a journalist may be physically present at the site of the incident, he is expected by opposite forces to abandon his professional responsibility and ethics by ‘churning’ out a story which suits both

Though I am not superstitious, at times, I find myself subconsciously looking for ‘signs’ by co-relating things which others would pass off as a mere coincidence.  And this is exactly what happened the other day. While going through the newspapers, I came across an article in which Aasha Khosa had written in the memory of her Late husband, George Joseph. Though not many of the present generation may recall this gentleman, for those who witnessed the turbulence in Kashmir during the nineties, his name is synonymous with bold and truthful reporting,

even at the cost of antagonising both the establishment and the militants. While he was ‘advised’ by Governor Jagmohan to leave the Valley for his own safety, one of the militant group operative at that time ‘ordered’ him to leave Kashmir in 48 hours. He did not!    

Then I came across an item in another newspaper which carried a ‘warning’ issued to “erring” journalists by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. Here I found myself trying to visualize whether there was some ‘divine’ design in the timing of the two. And I had good reasons for the same- George Joseph had died on February 27, but I had not read about his demise earlier. I also don’t recall any past instance of the Lashkar-e-Toiba issuing a threat to scribes. So, does the simultaneous publication of these two pieces in different papers contain some ‘hidden’ message?  

The Lashkar-e-Toiba’s warning is explicit- “Journalists should stop strengthening the ‘occupation forces’ and instead highlight the pain and suffering of Kashmiris due to oppressive state sponsored   policies.” It also warns of strict action against those indulging in “anti-freedom movement journalism.” Then, threatening dire consequences, the statement goes on to say that, “If journalists continued to work for Indian security agencies, there will be life threatening consequences…”

There is an old saying that in a conflict zone, truth is the first ‘casualty’. The origin of this adage can presumably be traced back to those days when conflict coverage by the media was either non-existent or prohibited. Consequently, the public had to rely upon the versions released by the belligerents which obviously lacked truthfulness.  However, this saying still holds good even today.  Even though a journalist may be physically present at the site of the incident, he is expected by both the warring factions to abandon his professional responsibility and ethics by ‘churning’ out a story which suits both. And herein lies a scribe’s dilemma- even if he produces a balanced report, it is bound to incur the wrath of either the establishment or the militants, the result of which can be disastrous.

Both the establishment and the militant outfits need to realise that just like opinions cannot be changed by subjective reporting, the truth too cannot be hidden indefinitely. The ultimate admission by separatist leaders regarding the identity of the assassins of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, and academicians like Abdul Ahad Wani is a case in point. And, both should realise that it is their deeds and not media reports which leave a lasting impression on the public. So, instead of intimidating the media, it would serve both better if they set their own houses in order rather than use the media to screen their objectionable actions. The public today is very discerning and despite what the media says, the truth is always known to those whom it matters.

So, please spare the poor ‘messenger’ – could this be the hidden message which the two newspaper articles contained?  


Author resides in New Delhi and can be mailed at
niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com