Kashmiri journalists, photographers lose jobs and livelihood

While there is no sign of ‘Vikas’ in the Valley, journalists as people in several other sectors, are fast losing their jobs in the absence of the Internet and communication channels

Kashmiri journalists, photographers lose jobs and livelihood

Gulzar Bhat

As the Valley continues to reel under unprecedented Internet gag for the past four and a half months, scores of working journalists in Kashmir have lost their jobs and are being forced to look for other means of livelihood.

Munneb-ul-Islam, a photo-journalist, is no longer seen with his camera slung on his shoulder, scrambling to take pictures whenever there is an encounter in Anantnag. "I was not paid emoluments since August this year as I was not able to work. Due to protracted Internet shutdown, it is still not possible to send across photographs freely", said Islam.

He began to do menial jobs at construction sites in Anantnag, some 55 kms south of Srinagar.

Ahmad is busy operating a photocopier at his small shop. He has ceased to file reports to a New Delhi based newspaper. Similarly, Basaharat Amin, a community reporter with Video Volunteers, has turned into a tutor and teaches at a private coaching centre.

Since August 5, when Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its special status and split into two Union Territories--Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh—journalists in the Valley are increasingly getting the pink slip.

Suspension of the Internet and other communication lines in Kashmir made it well-nigh impossible for Valley-based journalists to work. Although mobile phone services were restored in October, Internet connections remain elusive.

Newspapers in the Valley were not able to bring out their editions for several weeks after August 5. The government created a media centre in Srinagar with a few computers. But they were of little help. "It was a Herculean task to drive down to Srinagar every time just to email a photograph", Islam recalled, adding that each trip to Srinagar often cost him something between ₹1200 to ₹1500.

Ahmad a journalist covering Jammu and Kashmir for a Delhi based vernacular newspaper, waited for two months for the situation to improve. With no sign of improvement, he has set up a DTP shop on a shoestring budget.

Several newspapers in the Valley have also temporarily laid off their reporters working from several districts.

A reporter, who declined to be named, said that he worked for a local English daily newspaper covering north Kashmir, but he was asked to quit weeks after the August 5 shock move.

Video Volunteers (VV), one of the largest community news service in the world, has recently suspended its operation in Jammu and Kashmir for its flagship programme, Kashmir Unheard. As many as 24 community correspondents associated with the organisation are now without work in the region.

"I am teaching at a coaching centre now to scrape out a living", says Basharat Ahmad, who was associated with the organisation for the past two years. He told National Herald that they had to courier videos or send them by hand in absence of the internet.

Several local online news portals and newsgathering agencies including Global News Service (GNS) and Indian News Service (INS) have stopped services since August 5.

"We have discontinued our service post-August 5 as our team of reporters deputed in various districts were unable to send across their copies due to internet gag", said Tanveer-ul-Ahad, Editor-in-Chief GNS.

Several journalists complained bitterly that National Informatics Centres (NICs) in districts, where the Internet is working, refused to give them access to the Internet without first vetting and censoring their copy.

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