By Farooq Wani
This is in reference to an article titled ‘Kabza Kashmir Press Club Ka’ (Capture of Kashmir Press Club) written by Iftikhar Geelani on Kashmir Press Club (KPC), which was recently at the center of controversy within local media circles. Media houses in India and abroad have come out with several versions on this issue ranging from pedestrian to the absurd, and Iftikhar is one of them.
A journalist himself, his claim to fame largely comes from the fact that he happens to be the son-in-law of late separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. He continuously expresses anguish on what he perceives to be the sorry state of affairs in Kashmir, but rather than staying put here and using his pen to highlight the issues that upset him by reporting first-hand from ‘ground zero’, Iftikhar has conveniently shifted to Turkey instead.
In his article, Iftikhar has mentioned that ever since militancy erupted here more than three decades ago, as many as sixteen journalists have been killed so far in Kashmir Valley. While he’s certainly not wrong on facts, but by avoiding disclosure of those behind these targeted killings, he’s certainly guilty of intentionally resorting to contrived ambiguity so as to indirectly suggest that these murders were the handiwork of the establishment.
Even a cursory review will establish the fact that all the media persons who have been done to death in Kashmir Valley had one thing in common- they were so imbued with the spirit of ethical journalism that they unwittingly exposed the harsh reality behind the ‘game’ called militancy, and thus paid for speaking the truth with their lives.
Let us take just one example to put things in the correct perspective. When ‘Rising Kashmir’ founder and chief editor Shujaat Bukhari was shot dead, a section of media tried to insinuate that this was the handiwork of some government agency. However, everyone in Kashmir knew that Shujaat was instrumental in organising several peace conferences on Kashmir and was also part of Track II Indo-Pak diplomacy for permanent resolution of the Kashmir issue.
While this was a win-win situation for all, but peace returning to Kashmir threatened the future prospects of those running the militancy ‘industry’ in Kashmir. It was as clear as day that Shujaat was killed by militants and soon after his horrific killing, it emerged that it was Naveed Jat, a militant hailing from Pakistan had carried out Shujaat’s despicable murder.
I have no axe to grind with Iftikhar. However, his inclination to blame the establishment for all the ill plaguing Kashmir, and abject failure to criticise senseless killing of innocent civilians by militants is reflective of a ‘subjective-journalism’ mindset. He is one of the many who are enjoying life to the full by sitting comfortably abroad and making good money through disinformation and churning out propaganda in the garb of exposés that have been craftily manipulated.
Though Iftikhar claims to be greatly disturbed by the plight of Kashmiris, he hasn’t even considered it necessary to become a KPC member- which shows the hollowness of his purported concern for the people of Kashmir. The biggest damage people like Iftikhar are doing by unethical reporting is not sullying the highly respected profession of journalism, but setting a wrong example for young journalists in Kashmir.