Row over new media policy

Though the media outlets be it a newspaper, a newsmagazine, a news channel, a news portal or a news agency reserve the right to report on issues concerning institutional and administrative accountability, justice delivery system, , public welfare and security of life and property of the people, but the governments in Jammu & Kashmir even before August 5, 2019 the day when it was declared a union territory used to impose curbs on media during the times of public disorder triggered by street protests and killings of militants and civilians as laws are already in place against irresponsible and objectionable reporting . The new media policy proposing punitive action to the extent of stopping of advertisements to newspapers, booking journalists and editors under various laws of Indian Penal Code is not only objectionable but also unacceptable keeping in view the guarantees of a free press stipulated in the constitution of India. When there is no mention of “background checks” and the scrutiny of “recruits” hired by media houses for reporting, editing and management of printing and publishing , how the extra constitutional measures can be applied to media in Jammu & Kashmir where the people take pride in being the part of the biggest democracy of the world. The proposal to leave it for the bureaucrats and clercks to decide “what is news and what is fake news” is tantamount to reduce the job of a news editor to that of a contractor who is not allowed to use construction material for construction of a bridge, road and a building without the permission of an engineer and a works supervisor and in case of using construction material of his own choice without the consent of the engineer and the concerned department blocks his payment.
The fears of losing advertisement revenue from government is not as grave as is the fear of loosing the right to report and right to express views on the policies and decisions concerning basic civic rights of the people and the institutional working of the government.
While the fact remains that journalists in Kashmir have been in recent months booked even under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act even in the presence of existing media policy, the implementation of a provocative media policy is just an attempt to take away from the journalists the right to report and right to express views on the policies and decisions concerning basic civil rights of the people and institutional working of the government . While irrefutable fact is that the media houses have set highest standards of professional integrity and neutrality during last 30 years of its working in a hostile security atmosphere, the imposition of a hostile media without consulting editors and journalists the real stake holders would be a severe blow to the basic spirit of a free press in a free society. What deserves the attention of the government is the irrefutable fact that the fears of losing advertisement revenue from government is not as grave as is the fear of loosing the right to report and right to express views on the policies and decisions concerning basic civic rights of the people and the institutional working of the government.

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