ike logos depicting names of different channels can be seen everywhere in Srinagar in abundance forcing people to wonder if journalists or anchor persons have outnumbered the commoners here.
Mushroom growth of fourth estate in Kashmir can be an understatement but it is a fact that there is a free for all situation regarding journalism is concerned.
Scores of boys and girls whether they have any basic qualification of journalism or not are seen holding Abi Guzar made fake gun mikes made of PVC plastic rods doing interviews and other coverages for the channels which do not figure anywhere. A small page on Facebook is a simple trick which can give headaches and pain to the respectable citizens. And there is no check whatsoever from any quarter to at least filter unscrupulous.
As per the sources, these social media journos mostly for extorting money create a news Facebook page extend their area of operation beyond the government offices, hospitals, private nursing homes, and clinics who are known for milking civic bodies.
“They (blackmailers) generally prepare a list of potential targets that have deep pockets. Some also work as informers to them. Through these rackets, they earn more than the standard income from media houses. The controversy runs deeper, with allegations coming forward of these blackmailers sharing the ransom amount with their co workers,” a senior journalist told Good Morning Kashmir preferring anonymity.
Act according to sources is known within inner circles, these blackmailers lead a luxurious life, despite earning no wages. These individuals own several vehicles, including four-wheel drives.
Professional journalists believe that the proliferation of misinformation and their so called “day to day operations,” has resulted in the decline of trust in professional media.
“Newsrooms now a days face a non-stop barrage of challenges, from dwindling revenues to downsizing, professional and registered outlets still try their best by helping to improve trust and engagement through social media as well as newspapers, and the only thing that worries is, these blackmailers have put them in a scary vacuum of time. The only thing that can help this would be taking a strict action against them,” said another senior journalist, who is associated with a foreign daily.
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Government media policy or no policy do not matter for these amateur journalists/reporters/anchor persons. They are let free to fire their salvos at their targets to fetch some bucks.
Every second shopkeeper, a lower government officials, restaurant owner, a saloon owner and so on has a channel or two to enforce their will and safeguard ill intention.
Recently, an employee working in car showroom of Hyderpora Srinagar was seen distributing the mikes and cameras to its boys and girls in press colony, Pratap Park.
Scattered news reports about some of these excesses have appeared over the years in media. Recently, a dental technician who pretended as a doctor was looted by a so called founder of a local Facebook page. Such dramatic exposés are rare in a profession that otherwise accepts corruption as a fact of doing business. In fact, corruption is embedded in the business model of Kashmiri journalism. These so called journalists have opened for business in the last few years, everything is for sale and no action is taken against them.
A police official who spoke to Good Morning Kashmir on condition of anonymity said these amateur journalists get sting operations done on people and try to extort money from them. Adding that before few days they have asked such people here in press colony to show their authority letters, else stop covering events here.
“We cannot ask them continuously to show us credentials, few days ago we asked dozens of so called journalists here to show us authority letters from their respective organisations, but not a single person turned up,” he said. Adding that most of the new comers here in press colony do not even have the right credentials.
The official further said that people should check the credentials of the people who claim to be journalists. “If someone tries to blackmail you, it is better to check his credentials first, even one can call police rather than dealing the problem on your own,” he said.