Let’s not make it personnel as the growing trend of government employees cum journalists in Jammu and Kashmir is worrisome. It is not only against the government service rules or breach of laws or blockage to the opportunities for journalism aspirants, but a blow to the fourth estate. The matter of the fact is that the notion of government employee cum journalist is not new but it is trending ironically since decades under the very nose of concern authorities and the government.
It is not obliviously the first media report recently filed by senior journalist Naseer Ganai followed by few more but it was also senior and prominent journalist Ahmad Ali Fayaz who filed the same report back in 2011, highlighting the serious concern of schools whose teachers work as journalists as well. Fayaz then working with a Jammu based newspaper in his series of reports mentioned that these so called journo’s are barely attending school as they enjoy the patronage of high officials being media-men but ironically no action was taken.
But thanks to Ahmad Ali Fayaz, he mentioned the name of one journalist who was working with a Chandigarh based national news channel as reporter then (in 2011) simultaneously and justice was done to me. Interestingly this is the same news channel where I am currently working as Bureau Head Kashmir. He was terminated immediately by the TV channel management after it was revealed that he is government employee and I was offered the job which was refused to me earlier just because he expected less CTC ( cost to company) as compared to me. He is a government teacher and I was a full time poor bona-fide journalist. How could I, work on a meager and unjustified salary, that too when I have to manage my rented accommodation, EMI’s and other needs.
There are scores of mass communication pass outs and jobless journalists who are facing the same brunt due to the wrong notion set in Kashmir journalism by some people for their vested interests. In my case action was taken and justice prevailed but this time apart from media reports, the action is vital to deliver justice to left outs.
Surprisingly Doordarshan Kashmir (DDK) and radio Kashmir has always proven safe den for blue eyed ones where dozens of government servants are doing their part time openly. The newspaper owners also have to introspect as they must make it sure that they are hiring a reporter not a labour. These newspaper owners prefer government servants for vested interested. But isn’t it their responsibility to save the noble profession which they claim to be part of? Are we not losing honest, dedicated and worthwhile journalists? Isn’t journalism in Kashmir becoming part time? Isn’t our greed trending notion of twin jobs and blocking opportunities for new entrants?
Left with no other option most of the journalists now prefer to seek a job elsewhere. They prefer to become government rather than an insecure reporter who could be sacked anytime. For the past one year many good reporters left reporting and joined the government services in the Valley. Ironically, after joining the government, they come back to newspapers, seeking job of ‘sub-editors’ in the evening. Unfortunately this blow to the journalism in J&K goes unchecked. So reporters here have got a notion that they could work as government servants and at the same time be sub-editors in newspapers. They think being an ‘evening-journalist’ and a government employee by day increases your sphere of influence.
Journalist job is to write about the issues and we are doing the same regarding problems in journalism of Kashmir. But who has to act is a serious question as right from the center to state everyone is pretending a deaf ear. And that is perhaps these journalists are more important to newspaper owners and the government authorities than an honest full time journalist for ulterior interests. Are they sympathizer of politicians or bureaucrats, hence enjoying patronage as a special concession?
How petty it is that after completing Masters in Journalism, once these boys and girls join local newspapers, they are being paid nothing for a year or more. After at least a year of bounded labour they are being paid paltry sum of Rs 2000 to 3000 as ‘salary’ however, remains constant for years together.
Shockingly Journalist in Kashmir has no PF, no GP fund and no health or medical insurances amid insecure job. Thus having no proper recruitment and termination policy, the newspapers in the Valley have rendered journalism a useless profession. This physical and psychological exploitation in this trouble torn valley with a journalist where he has more responsibilities with no job security is sad state of affair and must end.
Irfan Quraishi is a Bureau Chief at Kashmir for Day & Night News, a Chandigarh based national News Channel.