A notice assigning five IAS officers to coordinate the visit of ‘media teams’ to Jammu & Kashmir over the next two weeks has triggered a minor controversy and upset local journalists. The visit by the media coincides with the first anniversary of suspending Article 370, revoking J & K’s special status and downgrading the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.
Five IAS officers, namely Rohit Kansal, Dheeraj Gupta, M. Raju, Sarmad Hafeez and Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, have been appointed nodal officers and joint nodal officers to coordinate the visit. Kansal has been in the news for refuting reports that the Government lied to the Supreme Court of India while saying that senior leader and former union minister and MP Saifuddin Soz was ‘free’ and not under detention.
It is not clear if the media teams will be allowed to meet Saifuddin Soz and indeed Omar Abdullah and Iltija Mufti, daughter of Mehbooba Muft, and other NC and PDP leaders.
Local media are incensed because they have been denied access and information over the past one year. They are also upset at mainstream leaders like former chief minister Omar Abdullah talking to the media outside the state. “You will not speak to the local media? Why?” asked a local journalist on social media, addressing his question to the former CM.
Others wondered why international media had been denied access to the state.
In a particularly scathing tweet, daughter of another former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, Iltija Mufti, said, “GOI facilitates ‘picnics’ & curated tours for ‘embedded media’ to showcase ‘normalcy’ & how happy Kashmiris are post-5th August. But local journalists who’ve stuck their neck out to print the truth are slapped with PSA & UAPA”.
She went on to add, “Local journos like Masrat Zahra, Gowhar Geelani & Fahad Shah are harassed to gag their reportage. Independent media in Kashmir is mostly strapped for cash & work in difficult circumstances. Yet, GOI enables propaganda media that would make Nazi Chief Goebbels proud.”
A journalist Zafar Choudhary reacted by tweeting, “On ‘anniversary’ eve 5 top IAS officers will be on duty for 2 weeks with media corps coming from Delhi. On normal days most officers don’t even take calls of local journalists pursuing stories of public importance.”