Last week, the Indian government decided to abrogate the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, seven decades after it was enshrined in the Constitution.
The decision has triggered much debate, as it should in a democracy. But, alarmingly, the debate has been based on dodgy facts, with several television news channels acting as propaganda arms of the Indian state.
Watch this aerial footage of Srinagar city recorded on the day of Eid. The streets were empty, not festive. Yet, the news channel described it as “a picture of calm and normalcy”, echoing the claim of the government.
On another news channel, a reporter spoke to the residents of rural Kupwara in the Valley. The channel declared “people are happy”, while their faces bore grim expressions and all they said was that they had been cut-off from the outside world for several days.
The communications blackout has made it difficult for journalists to report from Jammu and Kashmir. Despite that, we at Scroll.in have steadily published reports on the impact of the lockdown on ordinary citizens, their families outside the state, on healthcare services and the functioning of the press. Often, the reports have reflected the anger that many Kashmiris feel about the Indian government’s decision, which was taken without consulting them. Equally, other reports have featured those who support the government’s move – the residents of Ladakh, for instance, and some members of the Kashmiri Pandit community.
Amplifying the voice of the government and distorting facts to suit the official narrative is propaganda.
Reporting freely and fairly, reflecting the voices of people and asking questions to those in positions of authority is journalism.