What Accusations Regarding Govt Ads For Newspapers Hide

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Gayatri Mohan

Local daily Kashmir Reader carried a news report on October 3 that generated much interest, and was quickly shared across WhatsApp groups in the Valley — especially the media circles. The report was titled ‘In Kashmir, govt ads to newspapers is a secret, shady business’. It was given banner display over the top columns of the newspaper.

The main grouse of Kashmir Reader in the news report is this: Little-known newspapers get the lion’s share of government advertisements. Newspapers that are “widely read and widely circulated” are ignored for government ads, Kashmir Reader declared with evident chagrin.

This piece of information may inflame a cozy coterie of journalists, intellectuals and thinkers in New Delhi and other metros, and their clique abroad. Some of them may vent their ire against the government for this supposed “injustice”.

Within Kashmir, the news report elicited no such vexation. Journalists read the content with interest and moved on. Nobody is seeing the government decision as supposed “injustice”.

Why the disinterest within Kashmir?

Secret, Shady Businesses By Established Media Houses

Kashmir Reader called the government ads to newspapers as “secret, shady business”. Journos within Kashmir know that the Valley has been home to secret, shady businesses by old and established media houses far beyond the question of government ads.

Seasoned journalists whom I spoke to in this regard told me that for over 30 years, many of these “hugely popular and hugely read” newspapers have been running an anti-state narrative which compromised internal peace and national security.

For this service, the owners of these newspapers were fattened and rewarded by their masters across Pakistan. “This is the same clique of journalists who turned the Press Club of Kashmir into something like the Press Club of Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir,” quipped Iqball Ahmed Wani, the Editor of Heaven Mail.

Consistent Efforts To Inflame Vulnerable Youth

Many media houses who are today raising a hue and cry that there is discrepancy in giving government ads in newspapers have written much between the lines to provoke vulnerable local youth in order to please their masters in Pakistan. While Jamaat e Islami is banned, many of these newspapers do a good job of propagating incendiary Jamaat ideology within their pages.

A senior journalist told me: “It is hilarious to note that on the front page, a local newspaper displays the photograph of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat with some relevant headline. On the inside, the newspaper has filled pages upon pages with the literature of Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat e Islami, and other Islamic writers who have produced the same content as him. The interesting part is that the same newspapers then go ahead and collect huge government ads.”

Strict Approach Needed

Senior journalists also told me that now, content printed and produced by local media houses is being scanned and examined to check for inflammatory and anti-state matter. “This is the reason why many of these media houses are accusing the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) of corruption. The need of the hour is that the government must adopt a strict approach in dealing with media houses that act as local jihadi factories. Denying them government ads is a small measure — they should actually be closed down. The UT Administration must immediately notify the Media Policy 2020 and must take strict action against all media houses that do not meet the specified criteria. These measures are essential to save scores of vulnerable youth who get influenced by inflammatory media content and indulge in anti-state activities,” said a seasoned journalist of Kashmir.

Voices Of Courage Emerging

The fact of the matter is that within Kashmir, small media houses are arising that are daring to call a spade a spade. They are calling out Pakistan’s duplicity on Kashmir. They are revealing how Pakistan manoeuvred passions in Kashmir to incite our youth to violence. They are exposing Pakistan’s narcotics terror in the Valley. These voices are arising, and they are getting stronger.

One of the stated objectives of the J&K Media Policy 2020 is as follows: “To thwart misinformation, fake news and be alert to any attempts to use media to incite communal passions, preach violence or to propagate any information prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India.”

This is the reason why notifying the J&K Media Policy 2020 is vital for the state.

Kashmir Reader called for transparency and accountability. Agreed — cent per cent. Let there be light.

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